On Wednesday, December 9, the SpaceX team performed a high-altitude suborbital flight test of Starship serial number 8 (SN8) from its site in Cameron County, Texas [full video at the bottom of this page].
This suborbital flight was designed to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform, and the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle, including its body flaps, to how the vehicle manages propellant transition.
SN8 also attempted to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size. While the “flip” appeared to happen as anticipated, the landing did not.
Although not conclusive, the video appears to show one of the three raptor engines not restarting ahead of the flip maneuver, which is apparently by design, but another engine flames out just prior to reaching the pad. The one remaining active engine’s thrust turns an unhealthy-looking green during its futile attempt to slow Starship’s descent, which could indicate that the engine is destroying itself due to an oxygen-rich mix situation possibly due to fuel starvation.
With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much the team can learn as a whole, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances the development of Starship.
The entire test from launch to “landing” is less than 7 minutes. Enjoy!
Shortly after the live stream ended, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk commented on Twitter, “Mars, here we come!!”
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