On December 9 2020, SpaceX's Starship SN8 performed its launch debut and on its way down the vehicle executed an aerial flip. The vehicle did then explode in fire upon impacting the Earth but that does not take away from how impressive its landing flip was.
A two-minute video
Now, SpaceX has released a new two-minute video of the flip (embedded in this article). The video shows the glorious manoeuver from beginning to end and highlights what an amazing feat it indeed was.
SN8 blasted off from SpaceX's Boca Chica, Texas base at roughly 5:45 PM EST. The vehicle then successfully reached the upper atmosphere where it performed the sublime aerial flip showcased in the video. It even managed to maintain a vertical profile on its descent.
Unfortunately, it hadn't slowed down enough to avoid impacting the landing pad in a dreary fireball.
"Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed!" tweeted at the time SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. "Congrats SpaceX!"
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
The mission was deemed a success as it was the first time SpaceX flew Starship at a high altitude (roughly 41,000 ft (12.5 km). Earlier tests had only seen Starship prototype vehicles reach roughly 492 ft (150 m) altitudes.
These previous models did not have the nose cone, flaps, or other signature features required to control Starship's flight in the thin air of the upper atmosphere. Now, SpaceX is looking forward to an SN9 launch.
According to an initial report from NASA Space Flight, SN9 began its rollout to the Boca Chica base launch site on Tuesday and word has it that it may launch before 2021. However, SN9 did suffer a minor accident while it was awaiting its rollout from the High Bay.
One of the transport mounts collapsed causing the SN9 to tilt into the High Bay wall and damaging aero surfaces on the craft's nosecone. It took several days to repair the damages.
SN9 is now set to fly 7,7 miles (12,5 km) before the next Starships attempt to fly between 9,3 miles (15 km) and 12,42 miles (20 km). Could SpaceX really be heading to Mars next?