After two emergency suspensions, the prototype of the latest spacecraft Starship SN-8 of SpaceX, a US space exploration company, was tested on December 9th local time. However, due to the low pressure of the fuel tank, the “starship” exploded on landing, and huge fireballs broke out at the scene.
Musk, founder of SpaceX, congratulated the team on Twitter, saying that part of the spacecraft’s operation in its rise and landing was successful and he got the required data.
According to the technology website “The Verge” on December 9, SpaceX conducted a test flight of the Starship SN-8 prototype in southern Texas at about 5:45 p.m. local time, the whole journey was about seven minutes. During the flight, two of the three engines stalled, but the spacecraft reached a specified altitude of 12.5 kilometers.
During the descent, the third engine of the Starship also stalled. Musk said at a press conference last September that the “starship” can change the angle of the spacecraft landing when the engine is stalled, thus increasing the chance of a safe return. In this test flight, the “Starship” also carried out similar operations to correct the angle when the engine stalls to prepare for landing.
According to The Verge, the Starship kept landing horizontally and the spacecraft rekindled the engine before landing. But because the spacecraft was too fast, it finally exploded.
Video footage shows that the explosion triggered a huge fireball, and the “starship” exploded into pieces, and the scene was full of smoke, swallowing the landing site.
Despite the failed landing, Musk was optimistic about it. Before the launch, he said that the probability of the successful return of the prototype of the Starship was only one-third, and thought that the spacecraft “had a lot to be corrected”. And Musk was still unable to hide his excitement when the test flight successfully reached the specified altitude.
He tweeted: “[Starship] The low pressure of the head fuel tank during the landing combustion caused the landing speed to be very high, but we got all the data we needed! Congratulations to the SpaceX team, it’s great.”
He then tweeted: “The flight control system that rises, switching to the head fuel tank, and the precise flight control system towards the landing point has been successful!”
He tweeted two more, calling this test flight a “gateway” to Mars.” Mars, here we come!”
In another tweet, Musk revealed a “colored egg” of Starship. Inside the ship, a “42” is drawn from the classic science fiction work “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”. In this book, “42” refers to “the ultimate answer to life, the universe and anything”.
Starship is the next generation of SpaceX spacecraft, named after the science fiction Star Trek, which is about 49 meters long. Starship combines spacecraft, rocket and lander, and plans to transport people and cargo to deep space destinations. The whole body of the spacecraft is made of a steel alloy, and its silo-shaped shell is also the focus of attention.
Musk has said that he hopes that the “starship” can be used to transport satellites, travel around the world, and migrate to Mars in the future. Previously, the “starship” has carried out many test flights, but all of them used only one engine, and the rise altitude has never exceeded 153 meters. This test flight is also the first time that the “starship” has used three engines to fly.
This week, SpaceX announced early that it would conduct a test flight. However, the first two test flights were stopped at the last minute, and SpaceX did not disclose the reason.
The Verge commented that the future Starship still has a long way to go. According to Musk’s assumption, the final version of the “starship” will be equipped with six engines and an overweight booster to help the spacecraft enter space orbit. However, at present, SpaceX has not disclosed the construction of such boosters.
At present, SpaceX has built two other prototypes, named SN-9 and SN-10, which are similar in size to the SN-8 in this test flight. These two prototypes will also be tested in the future.