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The Starship has landed!

Starship #10 on the ground safely after its flight
After the flight.

Capitalism in space: SpaceX today successfully completed the first test flight of Starship prototype #10, not only completing the launch and descent manuevers but also successfully landing the prototype vertically on the landing pad.

The flight was similar to the previous two in that the spacecraft rose very slowly, hovered at about 6 miles, and then did a flip to place itself horizontal for its descent. Then as it approached the ground it righted itself as it fired up three engines (to make sure at least one worked), and then shut down two so that one engine brought the spacecraft down smoothly.

Next comes prototype #11. Its flight should occur with only a matter of weeks.

Starship #10 exploding
Starship #10 on its way down after exploding.

UPDATE: A few minutes after landing the prototype exploded, flinging itself off the launchpad. No word yet on why this happened, but I wonder if maybe this was a planned self-destruction. They don’t plan to fly this bird again, and it takes up a lot of storage space. Blowing it up saves space, though it does destroy material that could be salvaged for other uses.

To the right is a screen capture from one of LabPadre’s live streams, shortly after the ship launched itself from the pad and was on its way down. It only went up about two hundred feet.

If this wasn’t planned, SpaceX needs to figure out why this happened. Either way, we shall certainly find out in the coming days.

Below is SpaceX’s video of the entire flight. Enjoy!

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  • Kyle

    Why did it blow up?

  • Neil Hawkins

    Landing was still too hard. SN10 was leaning, surprised it did not fall over. Bet damage underneath caused explosion. Great job though SpaceX! True engineering.

  • Michael Mangold

    It was leaning after landing and there was a fire. Perhaps it came down a bit too hard and crushed the landing legs?

  • Skunk Bucket

    The rocket actually BOUNCED when it hit the ground and the fins were making contact with the pad after it settled down, something that wouldn’t happen if the legs hadn’t crushed further than they were designed to. I’m going to suggest that torque applied to the side of the ship from the fins as they hit the ground may have weakened the tank, causing it to eventually fail. Still, this flight was another big step toward Starship/Super Heavy revolutionizing human access to space. Bravo SpaceX!

  • Kevin R.

    It’s beautufl.

  • Captain Emeritus

    SN11 is waiting to go to Pad B!
    To me, the most painful part is the loss of the Raptors.
    Actually, was surprised they were able to mostly suppress the fire upon landing.
    Maybe some more remote water nozzles around the landing pad might be appropriate.
    Certainly exciting TV.
    Even the abort after engine start was heart thumping! (Waiting for the RUD!)
    Then, to recycle the whole thing for another go within a couple hours just displays incredible technical progress on this program.
    Congratulations Mr. Musk.

  • MDN

    I wonder if they’ve considered a “Clothesline” like landing system for terrestrial use instead? It would be easy to engineer 2 large towers say 300 feet apart or so, with a large cable strung between them which they could simply “hook” onto. This would be lighter I bet and would make all the landing stresses in tension on the airframe, not compression as landing on legs involves and which is more stressful to an empty tank structure. They could engineer some “give” into the cable as well to minimize the maximum stress.

    I agree they wouldn’t lunch 3 good raptors for an intentional destruction. There’s lots of open space to store used test articles outside if the never plan to fly them again.

    Way to go SpaceX!!!

  • Chris

    Question: How do they (SpaceX) get the great perspective shots of the Starship as it ascends and descends? Do they have a set of drones that keep a camera on the craft during flight?

  • Captain Emeritus commented: “Then, to recycle the whole thing for another go within a couple hours just displays incredible technical progress on this program.”

    Would have shut NASA down for a week.

    Chris asked: “Question: How do they (SpaceX) get the great perspective shots of the Starship as it ascends and descends? Do they have a set of drones that keep a camera on the craft during flight?”

    My understanding is that they do, as there have been regular drone shot during launches. I liked the engine bay views.

  • foxbat


    A week ??? how about a year

  • Icepilot

    Fire suppression seemed late & unenthusiastic, but may not have made a difference – an incredible success overall, regardless.
    SN-10 had an excess of control authority, expected at that stage of development. Since the engines have to be there, I’d expect the wings to get smaller. And one engine for the kick to get horizontal & before the landing to get vertical is plenty.

  • Frank

    The fire started before landing. You can see burst of it, then a flame that persisted after the second engine stopped. Maybe a leak, venting or excess pressure?

    That landing had to hurt.

  • Jerry Greenwood

    Greatest aviation accomplishment since Kitty Hawk!

  • Michael Thompson

    In one video clip posted to Twitter, at least one of the legs could be seen swinging freely under the skirt just after the flip indicating it failed to lock into position. A bad leg in combination with a slightly hard landing could have been enough to dislodge engines and plumbing on landing to the point bad things happened as fuel leaked in the presence of flame and oxygen. A similar issue happened with one of the earlier prototypes (SN4?) where the CH4 gases leaked from the ground support equipment connection point after a static fire and caused a massive explosion.

    The legs are a known weakness in the design and Musk has indicated we’ll see changes in the coming SN15 design.

  • Jeff Wright

    World’s fastest re-launch, thanks to a BLEVE. Forget RUD or CATO-I call this “pulling a Grammatica.” Flag thrown for celebration-third down. That means the next one is Leon Lett-look out!
    On a serious note, they are getting better…maybe blow out vents? The R-7 endured quiet the fire in the early 8o’s-narrow cone shaped tanks with kerosene.

    Now if I wanted a similar RLV, I might go for a Saturn IB type design with narrow, strong tanks that might be allowed to slip past each other.

    Legs would go between the tanks that rest on shocks-with the shocks above the puck and engines below it. A single, wide tank can be stoved in or burst more easily than an articulated foot design.

    You lock the springs down on ascent to keep it rigid, and use separate ampulized hypergolics on descent-with the main propellants joining the exhaust.
    The puck itself might even look like a plantigrade foot. This Starr-ship-after Bart-will have to be scaled up-but a similar Super Heavy may not need much of a pad.

    The weight will mean the need for winged fly-backs based around fork-lifts as I described earlier. For now-let’s hope no redesign is needed.

  • bobby b

    I keep hearing this “they blew it up because they were done with it” thread, and it reminds me of that time I was thinking of buying a new car and so I took my two-year-old car and rammed it into a large tree so that it would be smaller and more compact and easier to stuff into the trash when I brought the new one home.

    That was my story and I’m sticking to it.

  • john hare

    I could see it being (adjusting tinfoil hat) planned destruction in a couple of scenarios. The Raptors and other equipment on this vehicle are superseded by newer improved models and are not useful going forward, AND to spread FUD in potential competitors. Said competitors likely unwilling to scrap as much hardware on the learning curve may tend to slow down and analyze everything to death. Beef up potential trouble spots to the point that weight becomes even more of an issue than normal for an RLV. And perhaps scare some of them from even trying. In those cases induced caution slowing down some potential competition and eliminating others stillborn. (Sweating under tinfoil hat, must be barely holding off the mind control rays)

  • Joe

    Congrats SpaceX. It only took three tries to stick a landing. Watching the video, it seems more like a tank rupture and then a fireball rather than a true explosion. SN10 does not scatter but instead launches skyward – classic result for a tank rupture.

    The rate at which SpaceX is accomplishing their goals is startling. They are quickly approaching a test a month with the cadence picking up speed. They might not make the moon in 2023 but I seem them doing it before 2025.

  • ech

    ” wonder if maybe this was a planned self-destruction. ”

    No, They had heat shield and other test materials on the outside of the SN10 – the black, honeycomb pattern patches at various places on the vehicle. Plus they would have wanted to inspect and possibly reuse the engines.

  • Joe2

    I saw in the video upon touchdown, it rose up a few feet (maybe 10 feet), then came down and landed. Did anyone else see what I saw?

  • Jay

    You know Bob we get so excited by this great development, but I was watching a show last night on Apollo and it dawned on me three guys did this pretty similar thing about 52 years ago on a celestial body other than the Earth And… they did it on the first attempt! Pretty impressive, to land upright on a body not your own and on the first attempt with no explosion. As we have been watching we can’t do this on the first attempt on our own planet. I know things are a little bit different when you are trying to land upright on earth as opposed to the moon, but still when looking at it in this context it is so impressive the Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin accomplished what they did with the lunar lander. And now that I think about it, how about all the subsequent landings on the moon without incident; without explosion. That is hugely impressive.

  • pawn

    Well the next lunar landers are currently designed to use cryos so I hope they are landed gently. Crazy.

  • Matt in AZ

    Joe2, that was really a hell of a bounce for such a large vehicle. I’m wondering if it’s from the still-firing engine coming too close to the pad, with a resulting ground effect bouncing it back up until the thrust subsided enough.

  • Col Beausabre

    SN10, “Elon, you ain[t payin’ me enuf, I quit !

  • SixIron

    I doubt a Starship built from the thinner stainless steel they used on the latest test tank would have survived the initial landing impact at all. I also noticed they were still having engine issues as one Raptor was running orange color, running rich, intentional?. The first falcons landed too hard as I remember until they got things dialed in, so no big deal. Its all for good data.

  • Edward

    Jay wrote: “I was watching a show last night on Apollo and it dawned on me three guys did this pretty similar thing about 52 years ago on a celestial body other than the Earth And… they did it on the first attempt!

    Actually, NASA and Grumman did a lot of testing like this before trying it out on the Moon. The Lunar Lander’s legs even failed on one of these tests. This is why these tests are done, in order to discover design problems as well as the unforeseen problems and to work them out.

  • John

    SpaceX left out the earth shattering kaboom in their feed.

    There’s no way they intended to blow it up. Examination of the flown raptors alone is reason enough. Unless they have some huge disposal or recycling expense, there’s no way they’d blow up a prototype.

    I sometimes think they could have landed the first one if they really wanted to. It seems like the first ones few aggressive profiles and this one flipped with plenty of altitude to spare. But there’s valuable data in what didn’t work and good PR in showing progress. Third time’s a charm!

  • wayne

    you’ve inspired me to look-n-see…

    MIT Science Reporter (1966)
    “Landing on the Moon: How the lunar module works. ”
    Thomas Kelly Grumman Chief Engineer

  • pzatchok

    Since it landed hard and ended up leaning at quite a dangerous angle I am going with the ‘just blow it up now ‘instead of waiting and endangering anyone.

  • wayne

    -check out this video

    SN10 Successfully Lands / Dismantles Itself Spectacularly.
    Scott Manley

  • Jeff Wright

    Something that crossed my mind: the production model will have three extra engines with wider nozzles, so less room for fires. Maybe they need some corregation-crush space on the lower rim to reduce bounce-an annular bumper:-)

  • Edward

    John wrote: SpaceX left out the earth shattering kaboom in their feed.

    It is clear that SpaceX thought that the event was over, so they ended their livestream. I learned from experience, and I think SpaceX learned a year ago, that if you plan to test to destruction, then it is important to say so before the test.

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