With only 1.3 seconds to go, the launch of the latest prototype of next-generation Starship rocket was aborted due to an engine issue.
Starship prototype Serial Number 8, or SN8, was supposed to fly as high as 12.5 kilometers on Tuesday afternoon at the SpaceX site in Cameron County, Texas. The high-altitude flight represents the company’s most ambitious test to date.
“Raptor abort,” was the called from SpaceX mission control. The company said it would stand down for the day, likely to reset for launch opportunities on Wednesday or Thursday.
SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket (collectively referred to as Starship) represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond. Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit.
According to SpaceX website, the suborbital flight is designed to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform to the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle to how the vehicle manages propellant transition.
SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size.
With this kind of test, “success is not measure by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship,” it said on the website.
This year alone, SpaceX has already completed two low-altitude flight tests with SN5 and SN6, and accumulated over 16,000 seconds of run time during 330 ground engine starts.
The company also revealed it has built 10 Starship prototypes so far. SN9 is almost ready to move to the pad, which now has two active stands for rapid development testing.
SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. It is the only private company capable of returning a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit. In 2012 its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo to and from the International Space Station.
This year, SpaceX also became the first private company to take humans there as well.