Looking at the news here in Holland (nu.nl, nos.nl and even jeugdjournaal on TV) and in the world (CNN for example) they all seem to focus on the failed landing of the Starship SN8 yesterday. I understand why that is because a rocket that blows up make for a good headline, but it was just a very small part of all the tests they did ranging from the liftoff, the transition into the belly flop and getting back in a vertical position just before landing and then the landing itself in the end. But this was a test of a prototype and the first one they ever did, so I’m pretty sure they expected it to have a RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly) at some point. Elon Musk himself said that getting all of that done in their first try would probably not happen and you could see more stuff that was going wrong for sure.
There was a canceled Starship launch the day before, where it seems one of the engines did not fire, but also during the actual launch it seems 2 out of 3 engines stopped working to soon but engine number 42 kept going and at some point it almost seemed that the rocket was hovering. Then the flappy ‘wings’ made the rocket go horizontal, by moving their angle, which was the plan, and go into a belly flop to slow down de descent without the need for a parachute. This worked very well and with the camera on the rocket you could see the flaps doing small corrections to keep the rocket level.
Then, right before the landing 2 Starship rockets re-ignited (from what I understand it was supposed to be 2) but one stopped again and the other started to burn green fire. There was some fuel pressure issue that caused that. Knowing what fuel pressure issues mean in Formula 1 it might be so that there was not enough fuel left to actual provide that pressure, but that is not confirmed as far as I know.
The landing itself looked OK, the rocket was at the landing pad, vertical and blasting it’s engine at the right moment, but because of the issues it was just coming in to fast and landed a bit to fast, resulting in the explosion, which was pretty cool to see as well as all explosions are of course.
In the end a successful set of Starship tests, where a few components didn’t really go as many expected, but the goal was to learn and that they did I guess. With the next test of SN9 they have a later version of the engines I understand and with the 42 that was the latest one in this rocket that kept going that should work out a bit better and I’m guessing fuel pressure can be fixed for the next one pretty easily (either put in more or fix some valve that was causing the issue?)
So, overall the 2 days of watching a rocket were pretty long days, but I’m happy the have been there to watch if live and see the first belly flop of a rocket ever.