SpaceX Starship prototype performances – An insight

Often spacecraft is associated to the term explosion. This stands true when we go back in time and witness failures of major spacecraft developers. Spacecraft development has been risky and quite prone to complete disasters in terms of failed landings and frequent ruptures. In order to avoid such mis happenings, it is important to dig into past failures and do an in-depth analysis. The Starship and Super Heavy rocket that has been entitled as “World’s Tallest Rocket” is also to be included in the list of failures. This article shall cover performances of some of the spacecraft prototypes of Starship, developed by Space X and known essentially for unique operations upon landing on moon, mars or other celestial bodies.

List of the Space X’s STARSHIP spacecraft prototypes & their performances

Starship SN1

This prototype failed a liquid nitrogen pressure test at its launchpad situated near Boca Chica, Texas. This explosion was reported in the social media and gained a considerable discussion in Twitter. Elon Musk, founder of the Company seemed to give emphasis on “strengthening” SN2.

Starship SN3

This prototype is reported to fail the cryogenic pressure test. During the test, its tank collapsed though it had passed a temperature test previously. Elon Musk addressed its failure, saying there must have been some technical mistake and later mentioned about valves leakage.

Starship SN4

The SN4 prototype is considered to be the “most-tested Starship prototype.” Surviving five static-fire engine tests, this prototype is definitely longest-lived of the time. SN4 was followed by SN5 and SN6 prototypes.

Starship SN7

The SN7 prototype could have reached its desired performance if the company had not aimed at making it a failed attempt. The prototype served as a promising sign for the company back in 2020. In fact, Musk himself had reported the prototype’s incredible performance in withstanding a leakage in its tank. However, on 23rd June, 2020, the prototype could not survive a pressure test and exploded. The explosion is controversial and is considered to be a planned one.

Starship SN8

This prototype achieved quite some notable milestones when it came to fly at a higher altitude. Unfortunately, the engines of the rocket could not function at the peak altitude and exploded as a “fireball.” It performed well but ultimately failed in the test.

Starship SN9

If compared to SN8 prototype, the SN9 prototype proved itself better as it climbed higher than its former prototype on Feb 2, 2021. After a flight of 6.5 minutes, SN9 met its end by setting itself on a fiery explosion. This explosion happened after it tried re-enter earth’s atmosphere with a horizontal flip.

By its nineth attempt, Space x’s principal integration engineer John Insprucker could understand that they need to get the prototype do a better landing.

Starship SN10

On 7th March’ 2021, the SN10 prototype succeeded in its attempt to land smoothly on the surface with a horizontal flip, which the SN9 prototype failed to do before. In spite of a smooth landing, the prototype could not survive against an explosion which essentially was caused due to its hard landing. A part of the engine skirt got damaged while landing and hence the explosion.

Starship SN11

SN11 had a similar ending like that of SN10 prototype on 30th March, 2021. Due to cutting off of the cameras inside the rocket, it was difficult to know whether it landed. Reportedly, SN11 could not make it back to the earth’s surface and exploded prior to arriving at its launch pad.

Starship SN15

Space X succeeded in its mission when on May 5, 2021, SN15 prototype without any explosion landed safely. This test flight of SN15 was special as it happened on the occasion of 60th anniversary of Alan Shepard, the first American in Space.

SN15 is definitely a much-advanced prototype as compared to its former prototypes, with improved software, engines and structures. The efficiency of Space X resulted into SN15’s follow-up, SN20, which is the world’s tallest rocket. More is yet to be discovered.

Disclaimer: This information is covered based on the latest research and development available. However, it may not fully reflect all current aspects of the subject matter.

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