A prototype of the U.S. manned space vehicle Starship, which is being developed for missions to the moon and Mars, exploded on Thursday (Moscow time) after a test flight to suborbital altitude during its landing. The test was broadcast by developer SpaceX.
The launch took place from the company’s test site in Boca Chica, Texas, at 01:44 Moscow time. The test included a flight to an altitude of 12.5 kilometers, followed by engine shutdown, aerodynamic braking, restarting the engines to return to the vertical position and attempting to land on the launch pad. During the flight one of the three engines stopped working.
Meanwhile, SpaceX founder Elon Musk considered the test a success. However, he noted in a tweet that the pressure in the main fuel tank before landing was low, which led to higher speed on landing.
The launch was originally scheduled for Dec. 8, but it was canceled by automation just one second before liftoff due to a detected anomaly in one of Raptor’s engines.
Starship combines two functions – a second stage used to achieve orbital speed when launched from Earth, and a reusable spacecraft capable of taking off, flying in outer space and making a controlled landing on Earth, the Moon or Mars.
In the future, this reusable spacecraft will be launched for long-distance space missions by a SuperHeavy launch vehicle with 28 Raptor engines, capable of launching up to 150 tons of payloads into low Earth orbit. It will also be a reusable system, used as a booster only for takeoff from Earth.
In the manned version, the Starship will be able to take up to 100 people aboard.
In early December, SpaceX owner Ilon Musk announced that his rocket will be able to land people on Mars in 2026.
On September 3, SpaceX tested a prototype reusable spaceship Starship, which rose to a height of 150 meters.