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SpaceX releases detailed video of Starship SN8 flight and explosion

SpaceX's rocket prototype Starship SN8 exploding on impact, Dec. 9, 2020. (SpaceX/YouTube)

SpaceX released a video with slow-motion details of the Starship SN8 prototype flight and explosion.

The footage shows planned maneuvers of the test flight that’s part of the next-generation rocket being worked on at the company’s Texas facilities.

The launch happened on Dec. 9, 2020, the first high-altitude hop of one of the Starship prototypes, and the first to use more than one of the company’s new Raptor engines. SN8, as in serial number 8, used three and had a target of 12.5 km altitude.

The video shows the vertical takeoff with all three engine burns, then each engine cutoff in succession along with a release of liquid oxygen mid-flight and then the vehicle reorientation so it was free-falling on its side.

It then performs a flip maneuver to reacquire its vertical orientation ahead of a landing burn and attempted touchdown. Unfortunately the company wasn’t able to stick the landing, with an explosion at the site that destroyed the prototype. Despite that, company founder Elon Musk said the majority of its planned tests were successful.

“SN8 demonstrated a first-of-its-kind controlled aerodynamic descent and a landing flip maneuver. Together these will enable landing where no runways exist including the moon, Mars and beyond,” reads text from the video.

The video then teases, “Next up: SN9.”

The Starship design is meant to be used for both suborbital point-to-point flights on Earth and for deep-space missions such as to the moon and Mars. The full version will feature six Raptor engines, stand about 165 feet tall and have a 100-passenger capacity. The large version of Starship would be coupled with a Super Heavy booster with 37 Raptor engines combined for Mars colonization plans.

Musk retweeted the video on his account, saying only minor changes were in store for SN9\u2032s similar high-altitude flight.

SN9 is using Pad B at the launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas and Musk said the next test prototype, SN10 would be coming soon.

He also said a Super Heavy hop would be coming in a few months.

Plans are for SpaceX to continue proving out flight ability for Starship with higher altitudes, and eventually orbital test flights. The tests follow a similar method it used when developing its Falcon rockets. Starship is the company’s eventual replacement for its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

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