but two without three? While two previous copies had crashed into huge fireballs on landing, a prototype of SpaceX’s future giant Starship rocket this time managed to land in one piece this Wednesday, March 3, in Texas. , before exploding to the ground a few minutes later. “Starship SN10 has landed in one piece! », Reacted in a tweet, an hour after the explosion, the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk.
“The SpaceX team is doing a great job! Someday the real measure of success will be the fact that Starship flights have become commonplace, ”added the whimsical billionaire in a second tweet. “A wonderful soft landing,” SpaceX commentator John Insprucker first announced in the video broadcasting the test flight live.
Flames were however visible at the foot of the rocket, being extinguished by the teams on site. And a few minutes later, a huge explosion threw the craft into the air, which then shattered and fell to the ground. No explanation was immediately provided as this vehicle is set to become SpaceX’s rocket of choice to someday go to Mars.
The prototype, named SN10, for “Serial Number 10”, took off a little before 11:20 GMT from Boca Chica, Texas, for a third suborbital test. The machine climbed into the sky, propelled by three engines which turned off one after the other, and the vehicle overturned to place itself in a horizontal position. He reached 10 kilometers in altitude, the goal set for this flight, before starting his descent. The rocket then returned to a vertical position, managing to land in the desired location before shattering a few minutes later.
Coming trips to the moon before setting out to conquer Mars
Two other prototypes (SN8 and SN9) had crashed upon landing, in December 2020 and then at the beginning of February. These tests take place in an almost deserted area, empty enough so that an accident or explosion does not cause damage or cause casualties. Leased by SpaceX, this area is located in the far south of Texas, near the border with Mexico and on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico.
Elon Musk imagines one day launching several of these vessels to conquer Mars even if, at first, the rocket, if it becomes operational, could prove useful for closer trips, in particular for the Moon. It is in this vehicle that the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is supposed to go around the moon, in theory in 2023, a trip at the confidential price where he invited eight people “from all over the world” to join him. .
The future rocket will consist, in addition to the manned spaceship, of a first stage called Super Heavy. The whole will measure 120 meters in height and will be able to carry 100 tons on board.