Today in an early morning test SpaceX launched its latest Starship prototype SN11, and has yet to stick the landing. The vehicle lifted off in a heavy fog shrouded launch at 6 AM PST and achieved its desired altitude. Like previous attempts to test this vehicle, this flight ended in failure.
Differing from the other launches the amount of video for this launch was minimum as the fog prevented ground observers and enthusiasts from recording much of the action of the flight. SpaceX’s onboard cameras on the prototype provided the sole views of the test. Everything seemed to go as plan as the Starship rotated over fell in the “belly flop” maneuver as shown by an external camera onboard the vehicle. Cameras onboard recorded once of the engines reigniting before the feed cut out. Enthusiasts recording the launch saw an orange flash above the launch site and debris falling on the area.
Elon Musk made the following tweets regarding the launch this morning.
Looks like engine 2 had issues on ascent & didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but, in theory, it wasn’t needed.
Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 30, 2021
We await more information from SpaceX on this launch.
After three prior tests where the vehicle completed the flip maneuver, and with the last one landing, albeit exploding shortly afterward, this test seems to be a setback. SN11 was the last of the design of prototypes and will be followed by SN15. That vehicle will be a newer design that will integrate many improvements from their testing regime.
The loss of a prototype will not set back the program as the company continues to manufacture prototypes at a rapid rate. It is intended to attempt to test this vehicle for reentry speed at prototype SN20, which should be at this pace be sometime in the summer. BN1, the first of the super-heavy boosters, was made as a manufacturing pathfinder and scrapped. The company is currently working on BN2 to get it to the launch pad before May.