SpaceX’s Prototype Mars Rocket Crashes in Test Flight

If it has exploded the last time, try, try again. They did, and it exploded again.

On Tuesday, a test flight of SpaceX’s starship, a giant next-generation spacecraft that came to an explosive end, dreams of sending private rocket company founder and chief executive Elon Musk one day to Mars.

This brief flight, back to a height of about 6 miles and then back to a landing pad, demonstrated again how a giant rocket would tip from its side as it returned to landing in a controlled belly flop.

But when the prototype fired its engines back to correct for a vertical orientation, it appeared that one engine did not ignite properly, and the starship struck the ground at an angle, into a fireball. Disintegrated, leaving a cloud of smoke at the test site. , Which is in Bocca Chica, Tex., Near Brownsville.

“We just have to do a little work on that landing,” said John Inspucker, a SpaceX engineer who hosted a webcast of the test.

The end was similar to the final test flight in December that also ended in an explosion upon landing, although the specific reason for the rocket’s failure to slow down may be different.

On Tuesday evening, the Federal Aviation Administration, which controls the rocket launch, announced that it would oversee the investigation into the prototype’s crash.

An agency spokesman said in a statement, “Although it was an untested flight, this investigation would identify the root cause of today’s accident and possible opportunities to increase safety.”

For this launch, SpaceX was allowed at least FAA

Last week, SpaceX and government regulators seemed to be in an awkward stalemate. SpaceX had filled the propellant tanks of this prototype of the starship – its ninth – and was ready to launch. But the rocket remained on the ground when no approval from the FAA came.

Mr musk Expressed disappointment on TwitterDescribing the part of the FAA that sees SpaceX as “fundamentally broken”.

Mr. Musk wrote, “They have rules for spending a handful per year from some government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never find Mars. “

Late on Monday, the FAA allowed Tuesday’s launch, but then discovered that the December launch took place without agency approval. SpaceX requested an apology for conducting that flight, although it did not show that a pressure wave emanating from an explosion during testing would not be a threat to the public. The FAA denied the request. SpaceX defined the ruling and launched it anyway.

Even if the starship was completely landed, launching it without approval was a violation of the company’s license.

“The FAA required SpaceX to investigate the incident, including a comprehensive review of the company’s safety culture, operational decision making, and process discipline,” an agency spokesman said in a statement released Tuesday evening.

SpaceX was also asked to stop testing that could endanger the public until the company made changes that satisfied the agency. The FAA said that the resulting changes have improved safety and included it in Tuesday’s launch.

“We are anticipating no further enforcement action,” the FAA statement said.

The FAA said in its statement that SpaceX had complied with safety regulations, giving this test flight a green light.

Mr. Musk’s company has been successful in the launch business, and is now one of the world’s most valuable private companies. Its Falcon has become a major vertical for sending satellites into orbit on 9 rockets. It regularly delivers cargo to the International Space Station, and has lifted NASA astronauts twice in 2020, with more trips planned this year.

However, many are skeptical about Mr. Musk’s claim that the company is just a few years from sending a starship to Mars, adding that he has repeatedly set deadlines for SpaceX which is how much so far Passed quickly, proved to be very optimistic about this.

In 2019, when he provided an update on the development of the starship, he said that a high-altitude test would take place within months and orbital flights could take place early in 2020.

Instead, faulty welding resulted in many catastrophic failures. When the propellant tanks stopped breaking, one of the prototypes made a small successful flight in September. Earlier starship models, resembling a spray paint with the label removed, lifted themselves about 500 feet using a single rocket engine before being installed at the Texas test site.

Jared Zambrano-Stout, a former official at the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transport, said he was stunned when he saw the agency’s statement about SpaceX.

“SpaceX appears to have violated their launch license, and does not appear to have produced any results,” he said.

Mr. Zambrano-Stout, director of Congress and regulatory policy at Mixa, Butara and Israel, a law firm in Washington, said he knew of no other instances where the FAA had denied a launch license or where a company had approved without approval Was launched. FAA

“It’s important for people to understand that the FAA’s job is not to stop it from being launched,” he said. “They are in the business of launching licensing.”

The agency’s role is to make sure it is called “uninvited public” – people don’t get involved with SpaceX or Launch so that someone who is sitting at home or sitting is injured or killed if something goes wrong. .

“I think the FAA stopped SpaceX from doing this before the December incident, which is really difficult to do.

The next starship prototype – the tenth – is already built and rolled out to the launchpad. It could take flight later this month, Mr. Inspuker said during the webcast.

As SpaceX continues its development of Starship, it has launched three other rockets this year. A mission, Transporter-1, was launched on Sunday and carried 133 commercial and government spacecraft (as well as SpaceX’s 10 Starlink Internet satellites). The launch represented SpaceX’s entry into the business as rideshare, with many customers paying for a fraction of the cost of a class trip.

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