- SpaceX launched another test flight of a Starship prototype today.
- The high-altitude launch lasted roughly six minutes, but it didn’t end how SpaceX would have liked.
- Rather than landing, the spacecraft slammed into the landing area, creating a massive explosion.
SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype launched on a test flight today, and it definitely ended with a bang. The launch went as planned, for the most part, with the Starship prototype traveling skyward for several minutes before killing its engines and then drifting back toward Earth. Everything looked great… until it didn’t.
The Starship managed to direct itself perfectly back to the landing area while drifting on its side. It nailed the navigation and even successfully initiated the “kick flip” maneuver to orient itself just prior to reaching the landing pad. Unfortunately, the spacecraft kept rotating, falling on its other side and slamming into the landing area at an angle. The explosion was incredible.
— scott budman (@scottbudman) February 2, 2021
I mean, just listen to that explosion. That’s some serious power right there, and while it’s a shame that the spacecraft prototype was lost, the huge fireball that it generated was definitely impressive.
As unfortunate it is that the Starship prototype crashed and was lost, SpaceX actually may have gotten lucky here. The spacecraft slammed into the landing area, which also happens to be the facility from which it launched. There isn’t a ton of infrastructure there, but there is another starship prototype in the immediate vicinity, and by looking at various videos of the crash you can see just how close the tumbling spacecraft came to potentially impacting the other rocket.
Normally, after such a high-profile test launch, SpaceX and especially head man Elon Musk would be on Twitter explaining what had happened. Unfortunately, Musk appears to be on a bit of a Twitter vacation, tweeting last night that he’ll be “off Twitter for a while,” so it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting any updates from him.
For now, we’ll just have to wait and see what SpaceX can figure out about the crash and why it happened. The good news is that the company is very good about collecting data relating to every aspect of its launches, and it’ll surely have a theory as to why the prototype couldn’t stick its landing this time around.
Correcting those issues and applying what they learned to subsequent launches is all part of the process, and SpaceX has never been shy about its shortcomings, especially during the prototype and testing phase of a new spacecraft. One day, SpaceX will successfully land on its Starship rockets, and when that happens it will be awesome. Today, however, is just not that day.