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Starship SN11 Test Flight Ends in Explosion, Debris Raining Down From the Sky

After a short delay, the latest Starship rocket prototype, SN11, was launched from the SpaceX launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas. Heavy fog conditions made the launch less entertaining to watch for people at home, including the now-familiar explosive ending.
Starship SN11 launched in heavy fog from Texas launch pad, exploded before or during landing 13 photos
Photo: YouTube/SpaceX
Starship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damageStarship prototype SN10 makes perfect soft landing, explodes minutes later due to damage
SN11, much like predecessors SN8, SN9 and SN10, performed admirably during the ascent, the belly flop maneuver, and part of the descent and exploded before it was able to make the soft landing. The only one on this list to have gotten that last part right was SN10, which was able to land in one piece, as it was meant to do. However, a couple of minutes after the landing, it too exploded.

With SN11, because the camera view was lost for the final part of the journey, SpaceX engineers will have to rely on the analysis the people on the ground will perform on the remaining pieces to determine what happened and what can be improved on the next mission. As the second video at the bottom of the page shows, they will be having a hard time collecting them since debris rained from the sky. Reuters says debris was scattered 5 miles (5 km) around the launch pad.

As of the time of press, it’s uncertain what went wrong. On Twitter, Elon Musk jokes that at least SN11 got the crater “in the right place.” On a more serious note, he adds that “engine 2 had issues on ascent & didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn,” and that “something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today.”

Starship is expected to make its first orbital flight in 2023, and these prototypes serve to develop a reusable rocket that can land vertically. That would cut down costs considerably and lead to a higher frequency of launches. Eventually, Musk hopes the Starship rocket will carry men and cargo to Mars, which will be colonized.





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Editor's note: Gallery includes photos from the SN10 successful launch.

About the author: Elena Gorgan
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Elena has been writing for a living since 2006 and, as a journalist, she has put her double major in English and Spanish to good use. She covers automotive and mobility topics like cars and bicycles, and she always knows the shows worth watching on Netflix and friends.
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