SpaceX was planning a test flight with its Starship SN10 rocket prototype – the vehicle that will one day take humanity to Mars – on 3 March 2020. However, the flight was aborted at the last second.

SpaceX aborts Starship SN10 test flight

More ‘wiggle room’ needed

The first attempt by SpaceX to launch their third Starship SN10 prototype was aborted right at the moment of liftoff. It’s believed that there may be another attempt today, but Thursday and Friday have been set aside as backup launch days.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to explain that the abort was triggered by pre-set standards around the rocket’s thrust. According to Musk, the thrust limit would be increased with hopes it would give more wiggle room for the launch to get go-ahead.

When the next launch attempt goes ahead, you’ll be able to watch a webcast of the launch from the SpaceX website, Twitter or on YouTube.

Belly flop to test vertical landing

The latest test will launch the prototype on a high-altitude test flight. According to SpaceX engineer John Insprucker, the purpose of the test is to gather data about how the Starship prototype’s flaps would control the craft as it descends from its target altitude.

“Similar to the high-altitude flight tests of Starship SN8 and SN9, SN10 will be powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee — approximately 10 km in altitude.”

The prototype will then perform a “belly flop” after reaching its target altitude of around 10km and glide to its landing site. The prototype will then attempt another flip before its planned vertical landing.

“SN10’s Raptor engines will then reignite as the vehicle attempts a landing flip manoeuvre immediately before touching down on the landing pad adjacent to the launch mount,” SpaceX wrote in the flight description.

Musk has described the descent as being comparable to the way a skydiver would fall to earth.

Previous Starship prototypes exploded on landing

SpaceX’s two previous attempts at this manoeuvre have resulted in crash landings. However, according to SpaceX, perfecting the dramatic manoeuvre is critical if the company hopes to build it’s “fully reusable transportation system”.

The company’s Starship is one of three designs vying for the contract to provide space crafts to NASA for its Artemis program. The Artemis program aims to land astronauts on the moon by 2024.

The Starship development still has some way to go, with SpaceX still needing to build a full-sized prototype and begin testing Super Heavy, the massive rocket booster that will propel the Starship into orbit.

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Presh JM Reporter

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