The new Starship disaster has been blamed on an engine explosion

Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, stated an engine on the firm’s new Starship concept had a “hard start,” which led the spacecraft to explode during a flight test last week. The Starship SN11 spacecraft took flight in thick fog from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas, testing facility on March 30. They soared to a height of 10 kilometers before touching down at the testing facility. However, even as the vehicle’s Raptor engines were re-igniting for landing, the vehicle’s footage was lost. It wasn’t until the fog disappeared and people were able to return to the testing facility that it became apparent that the car had detonated, spreading rubble all over the ground.

Musk blamed the vehicle’s disappearance on one of three Raptor engines in an April 5 tweet. According to him, a spill of methane, or CH4, fuel in the engine caused a fire and “fried most of [the] avionics,” resulting in a “hard launch intending landing burn in the CH4 turbopump.”

If there is so much propellant in an engine’s combustion chamber when it is ignited, it is referred to as a “hard start.” This causes a pressure surge, which may harm an engine or, in the worst-case situation, result in an explosion.

A fire on the underside from one of the Raptor engines started around 25 seconds after liftoff, according to onboard footage from Starship SN11 seen on SpaceX’s webcast of the flight. The webcast cut to other camera views after the fire flames for only five seconds, but it’s unknown how long the fire burned or whether it was the event that destroyed the avionics. The vehicle’s success on ascent did not seem to be affected by the fire.

Since December, all the four Starship suborbital research flights have resulted in the vehicle’s failure. The Starship SN8 spacecraft exploded upon arrival in December, which Musk subsequently attributed to a lack of balance in a “header” propellant tank at the vehicle’s tip, robbing the engines with enough propellant to land safely.

The SN9 spacecraft, which debuted on February 2, also exploded upon arrival. One of the vehicle’s Raptor motors failed to fire for the landing, allowing it to strike the ground too soon and at an angle.

On March 3, the SN10 vehicle managed to land successfully, only to blast less than ten minutes later.  After the SN8 accident, Musk said that helium bubbles applied to the header fuel tank to sustain pressure for landing were swallowed by the engines, stopping them from producing enough thrust to safely land. The car impacted the earth quickly, creating destruction that culminated in an explosion minutes later.

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