The SpaceX Starship SN8 prototype had its first successful high-altitude test flight yesterday, though it came in a little too hot during the landing and ended up exploding. And yes, despite exploding, this was considered a rousing success:
Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2020
According to SpaceX, here’s the purpose of the test flight:
“This suborbital flight is designed to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform, and the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle, including its body flaps, to how the vehicle manages propellant transition.”
Keep in mind this thing is also 165 feet tall (50 meters) so basically the size of a building. They launched a building, flew it 12 km, and then almost landed it. The thing even hit their landing target before exploding. It’s a testament to how far SpaceX is reaching that a giant rocket exploding can be considered a success. This isn’t like tripping while walking to get your mail, it’s like tripping over the finish line after completing an Iron Man Triathlon.
Keep going for the full video of the entire test flight including the explosive landing.