Fail often, fail hard, learn.
SpaceX launched a fullstack Starship/Super Heavy this morning, and it exploded 3:59 into the flight. This was a resounding success.
“Why? Because one could sit in meetings for ages and discuss everything that could go wrong with a rocket like this, with an unprecedented number of first stage engines and its colossal size. The alternative is simply to get the rocket into a “good enough” configuration and go fly. Flying is the ultimate test, providing the best data. There is no more worrying about theoretical failures. The company’s engineers actually get to identify what is wrong and then go and fix it. But you have to accept some failure.” (Eric Berger, link below)
So congratulations to SpaceX on a successful failure of a launch!
This is a long read, but worthwhile. It is not hyperbole to say that Starship will change everything. And it will happen faster than the current space industry is prepared to adapt.
From the article:
“There are still major risks on the critical path between now and a fully reusable Starship, but no miracles are required to solve them.
Starship will change the way we do business in space, and now is the time to start preparing.
Annual capacity to LEO climbs from its current average of 500 T for the whole of our civilization to perhaps 500 T per week. Eventually, it could exceed 1,000,000 T/year. At the same time, launch costs drop as low as $50/kg, roughly 100x lower than the present. For the same budget in launch, supply will have increased by roughly 100x. How can the space industry saturate this increased launch supply?
Prior to Starship, heavy machinery for building a Moon base could only come from NASA, because only NASA has the expertise to build a rocket propelled titanium Moon tractor for a billion dollars per unit. After Starship, Caterpillar or Deere or Kamaz can space qualify their existing commodity products with very minimal changes and operate them in space.
Even if the space industry fully understood Starship, I think it would be very difficult for them to plan and adapt rapidly enough to match the coming explosion in launch capacity.”
Casey Handmer's blog
If you haven’t watched the Starship hop from yesterday, take a look at the official SpaceX feed. It doesn’t show the later explosion (yes, it blew up about ten minutes after landing), but there is some really great footage here. The transition to glide at 10:04 and the relighting of the Raptors at 11:41 stand out, but the whole thing is worth a watch.
image: screen grab from SpaceX video
Yes, the landing legs failed. Yes, it stands at an angle after landing. Yes, it blew up ten minutes later. That stuff doesn’t matter yet. The legs were a temporary solution, not the final design. The goal of this mission was to improve the glide and the flip-and-burn maneuver for landing. By those measures, this flight was a success.
Looking forward to SN11.
What’s going on with SpaceX and the FAA? Well, it appears to be complicated. But, with SN9 and SN10 stacked up at the launch pad, let’s hope they resolve their issues soon.
Thanks to Everyday Astronaut for the coverage and the contagious enthusiasm.
Some details on SpaceX’s Mars plan and the issues they are working on.
Ostensibly about the SpaceX Raptor engine, it’s really so much more. If you’ve ever had a hankerin’ to learn more about rocket engine design, Everyday Astronaut‘s latest video is a great place to start.
What we know so far about Starship and its prototype taking shape in Texas.