Starship SN9 Flies, Engine Failure causes RUD

Space Coast, FL – SpaceX launched their Starship SN9 prototype spacecraft for a 10km (6.2mi) sub-orbital flight test yesterday. A permit was granted after a two day wait for FAA (Federal Aviation Agency) approval. We also saw for the very first time two Starships vertical next to one another at SpaceX’s launch testing facility in Boca Chica, Texas, USA.

Starship SN9 and SN10 at launch test stands in Boca Chica, Texas, USA
Starships SN9(left) and SN10(right) during sunset feat. Starhopper (bottom right) and SN7.2 test article (bottom left) | photo: SpaceX

The Launch of Starship SN9

The flight test was to gather data of flight and landing capabilities. Lift off was powered by three Raptor engines. In which each of them shut down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee (10 km or 6.2 mi). Starship SN9 performed a propellant transition to the internal header tanks. These internal header tanks hold landing propellant. This is prior to reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent.

Starship SN9 lifts off for testing | photo: SpaceX

The Starship SN9 prototype descended under active aerodynamic control. This was accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps are actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight. All while enabling precise landing at the intended location.

Starship SN9’s Raptor engines were to reignite as the vehicle attempts a landing flip maneuver. This happening immediately before touching down on the landing pad adjacent to the launch mount.

Starship SN9 impacts after Raptor engine failure
SN9 impacts ground at landing zone due to Raptor engine failure | image: Go Space Launch Live Stream/SPadre

RUD Landing

During the landing flip maneuver, one of the Raptor engines did not relight and caused SN9 to land at high speed and experience a RUD (Rapid Unscheduled Disassemble).

Throughout the flight everything went smooth, lift off, apogee, engine cut offs and decent flip. However, an anomaly of one of the Raptor engines happened just prior to landing. All in all this was another successful data gathering flight test for SpaceX. Next up, Starship SN10 will follow with another high-altitude flight test in the coming weeks.

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