SpaceX has been performing launch-flip-and-land tests of its new beyond-Earth-orbit launcher and spacecraft prototype, Starship, since December of last year. That first test ended in a big fireball, because Starship didn’t quite stick the landing. A second test, last month, came closer, but kind of belly-flopped into the ground, ending in another explosion. This time, Starship performed exactly as intended, launching, executing a flip manoeuvre, and sticking the vertical landing. Then it exploded, because, well, I guess it’s just been decided that’s how these Starship tests end: with big, exciting fireballs.
With the minor exception of everything blowing up, the test went extremely well for SpaceX, with all three Raptor engines firing as intended, and deactivating in order during landing. Really, the actual test itself went beautifully.
Here’s a video of the successful launch, bellyflop manoeuvre, and landing:
…and this is video from about ten minutes later:
A methane leak is reported to be a probable cause of the explosion, though SpaceX has yet to issue an official explanation.
Many responses have been focused more on the very non-trivial successful parts of the short test, as they represent a very significant milestone for Starship:
— SPACE.com (@SPACEdotcom) March 3, 2021
Oof. SN10 has decided to join SN8 and SN9.
Still a great advancement with the landing.
— Chris Bergin – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) March 3, 2021
Unsurprisingly for a venture involving Elon Musk, some SpaceX supporters seem affronted that news outlets would even mention something as trivial as a massive explosion:
I mean, come on, my stans. Yes, no question, there’s huge successes here, and SpaceX will have plenty of great data to keep moving ahead.
But you can’t expect nobody to comment on the thing blowing up. Because it blew up.
Relax, minions of Elon, everyone knows rocket science is, you know, rocket science. It’s not easy, and this kind of thing is to be expected, as are people reacting to it.