Starship SN10 | 10 km Test Flight

Lift Off Time
March 3, 2021 – 23:14 UTC | 17:14 CST
Mission Name
10 km Test Flight
Launch Provider
(What rocket company launched it?)
(Who paid for this?)
Starship SN10
Launch Location
Test Stand A, Boca Chica, Texas, United States
Did they be attempt to recover the vehicle?
Where did the vehicle land?
SN10 landed on the landing pad in Boca Chica, Texas. It was destroyed minutes later
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
The fairings – or more accurately, the nosecone – were integrated into the vehicle and were recovered with it
Were these fairings (the nosecone) new?
How’d the weather look?
It was a bit cloudy, but acceptable for launch
This was the:
– 1st flight of SN10
5th flight of a Starship prototype (7th if you count Starhopper’s two hops; 8th if you also count Starhopper’s short tethered hop)
– 3rd flight of a Starship prototype with a nosecone and aerodynamic control surfaces
– 1st full-sized Starship prototype to land
Where to watch
Official replay

Everyday Astronaut replay

How did it go?

SN10 Ascent

SN10 lifted off from its launch stand in Boca Chica, Texas at 17:14 CST. It slowly ascended under the power of its three Raptor engines until T+ 2 minutes and 15 seconds, where it intentionally shut one down to decrease acceleration. SN10 continued under the power of two engines until T+ 3 minutes and 13 seconds, where it intentionally shut off a second engine. It continued with one Raptor engine until it reached apogee, where it hovered for a period of time and performed a propellant transition to the header tanks. At T+ 4 minutes and 20 seconds, SN10 transitioned into a horizontal orientation and shut off its third engine.

SN10 ascent
SN10 ascending (Credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Starship Descent, landing, and post landing

SN10 remained in a stable configuration throughout the entire skydive phase of its flight, using its two sets of flaps – two forward and two aft – to control itself. It reignited all three of its engines one-by-one at T+ 6 minutes, and transitioned back into a vertical configuration. It then shut off one of its engines (the one with the shortest lever arm). Immediately after that, it shut off a second engine. SN10’s highly successful test flight culminated with a propulsive landing on the landing pad with one Raptor engine.

SN10 landing
SN10 and its inadequate landing legs (Credit: Cosmic Perspective)

Unfortunately for SN10, some of its landing legs failed to lock into place, causing it to land on its skirt and bounce upon landing. This damaged parts of the vehicle and likely started a methane leak. Though it remained upright and in one piece for several minutes, an explosion originating from the engine skirt area eventually destroyed the vehicle.

SN10 rapid unscheduled disassembly (Credit: Cosmic Perspective)

SN10’s post-landing exposing does not in any way detract from its success. SN10 had a highly successfully test flight culminating in a successful landing for the first time.

What’s next?

Starship SN11 is currently sitting in the high bay down the road from the launch site, ready to roll out to the launch pad in the coming days. Several other prototypes, as well as the first Super Heavy booster, are in various states of construction, and will perform their own test flights in the coming months.

  1. Am I the only one seeing there were anomalous flames at engine shutdown at apogee, and those flames intensified during the landing maneuvers? I believe at least one of the methane cooling lines breached and leaked at this point with the obvious fire on one side during final decent. Once down, if not completely as we expected, the methane continued to leak as well as the normal bottom venting of O2, which gave a very explosive atmosphere under the skirt. I think the problem actually lies in the overpreassure caused by engine shut-off which led to a burst in a fuel-fed cooling line.

    1. That COULD be the answer. However, the bounce and impact of the skirt could have caused even more damage to a lot of different systems, and this could have been one of them. I think that was a problem, but the impact on landing compromised it further and caused the explosion. There’s my opinion.

  2. It seems, the direct cause of explosion was a structural failure of pressurised tank on the line of its joint to the skirt. А human flight rated spacecraft must survive a rough landing. The safety factor of starship looks to be low for now.

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