SpaceX's SN10 lands and then explodes

Originally published at: SpaceX's SN10 lands and then explodes | Boing Boing


so close nbc 90th special GIF by NBC


Baby steps, baby steps. Next time it’ll sit for a few hours before exploding!


I prefer to see it as more of a successful landing, followed by a unscheduled second launch and concluded with a rapid fuel-based disassembly.


Kinda reminds me of that time I didn’t fully read the label on a can of Cruex


I wonder why they don’t return the ship to an upright position sooner in the descent - would give them more time to resolve anomalies.

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Why would there be that much explosive material left after touchdown? Maybe they overloaded fuel in case they needed to realign at the landing?


So, and stay with me here, maybe they should consider working with scale models for a bit?


I think it’s simply that sucessful landing isn’t the priority. Learning all the things that can go wrong when you push the prototype to it’s limits is.
By the time the wreckage of one prototype is cleared away, the next one is ready to be set up in its place.
Because the other thing their trying to learn is how to manufacture these things fast.

Thats not to say they might not eventually change the landing as you suggested - The two prior crashes were due to insuficcient fuel pressure. So this launch they changed the way the fuel was pressurised to something they knew would work, and got a landing.


The last minute engine relight and flip to vertical minimizes the amount of fuel needed to land, which minimizes the amount needed for launch, and maximizes payload. There will always be some amount of excess fuel onboard, as wind, air density, temperature, etc., will impact the amount needed for a successful landing.

It’s also worth noting that had this been the much publicized future moon orbit mission, there would have been ten people in the nose. I assume some sort of escape mechanism will be provided in case of a slight pad miss and seemingly minor crunch (slide down ropes and run like hell?).


Someone who follows these things please remind me why they land this thing on the tail anyway other than because that’s how they did it in 1950s s-f movies. It seems to me that landing airplane-style is much less complex technologically.

Many people don’t realize that a lot of large rockets actually need to be pressurized in order to hold their own weight. There’s not much structure to give them their strength, they’re basically largely empty cylinders with thin walls. Even after fuel is expended they have pressurized gas (often helium) to maintain pressure so that they don’t crinkle like a beer can being stepped on. So they really do need to land vertically.

Obviously it’s possible to give a spaceship the form factor of an airplane, as the Shuttle program proved. (Assuming you’re cool with getting a new fuel tank every time) But it’s a totally different design with a lot of drawbacks and a huge amount of extra complexity. There’s no way to modify something like the spacex design into an airplane-like design without starting from scratch. And it’s not like the Shuttle program was a great example to follow when it comes to either cost or crew safety.

ETA: this diagram helps explain some of the features of a large rocket:


Sure, they are!

Doesn’t a 1:1 scale count?


it really is wild to see relative rapid iteration on something of this scale. where the cost of learning is losing many millions per vehicle.

on the one hand it shows how much money there is sloshing around out there for taxing wealthy people and doing things like getting houseless people into homes. on the other hand… maybe it’s still cheaper than “plan it all out first and build once”


To land horizontally like an airplane you need to carry around large heavy wings, so you end up with either a smaller orbital vehicle with a tiny payload, or a something like the Space Shuttle that needs external tanks to reach orbit. Starship is ‘flying’ when it’s horizontal, the speed and descent rate are far too high to allow landing. The horizontal attitude primarily provides a lot of drag to slow it down, again minimizing the amount of fuel needed for vertical landing.


This is what I think of whenever someone starts cheering about finding a near-earth exoplanet in Proxima Centauri like they think we’re going to start migrating before most of us are old or dead.

A pity, that’s a cool ship. But I still don’t see the point of that thing, really I don’t.

  • it’s not going into orbit, not with a crew on
  • for that it needs a hewg heavy lifter, which still does not exist
  • and even so it’s not taking anyone to Mars, it’s too small
  • and if they try they’ll get 0,5 Sievert of radiation each way, which is a death sentence
  • and even if they go all Leroy Jenkins about that, that thing cannot carry enough air/water/food for a trip and stay on Mars
  • and it cannot carry enough fuel for a landing like that returning from Mars
  • and so on…
    I’d really like to understand what the heck they are doing. Me very perplexed.

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This time, we were just about to land, maybe 3 feet, when, what do you think: we run out of gasoline again.


I liked the part where it sploded.

  1. Does the design allow leaked fuel and oxidizer to accumulate in the somewhat confined area at the rear of the rocket when the vehicle is sitting on the landing pad?
  2. Why does the vehicle have flashes of fire in the area surrounding the engines during the descent?
  3. Would legs to hold the vehicle above the ground make any difference?
  4. Has an Estes Mars Lander ever exploded on landing?