Starship flies for the first time
Understand why the first test flight of SpaceX's new rocket has been a tremendous success
On December 9, SpaceX conducted the first test flight of a Starship prototype (SN8), the new spaceship that is going to take us to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Starship is a colossal rocket, 60 meters tall, made of stainless steel, with newly developed Raptor engines and fresh new ideas on how to save money in reusability and manufacturing.
The 12.5km flight was conducted at SpaceX's Boca Chica testing site in Texas. Starship successfully ascended, transitioned propellant, and performed its landing flip maneuver with precise flap control to reach its landing.
Unfortunately, the test ended up with a bang as low pressure in the fuel header tank during the landing burn led to a hard landing. It was expected though. Tests like this are important to acquire data and fix the relevant problems in the next prototype.
You can watch the incredible footage in the video below with comments from Scott Manley.
Why should I care about this?
Rocket development has always been a long, arduous, and expensive endeavor funded and managed by governments. SpaceX is proving with the first flight of Starship that its new rocket design worked flawlessly. Even with the landing explosion, the test marks a new era for space exploration where reusable, cheap, and simple rockets are commonplace.
Expect more tests with newer prototypes of Starship in the next months. If everything goes well, Starship may go to orbit in 2021 and, in 2024, may reach the Moon or even Mars.