Tuesday, February 2, 2021
We learned that SpaceX was planning a test launch today, so we headed to nearby Isla Blanca Beach to find a place where we could get a good view. We weren’t alone!
SpaceX’s plan was to test launch a prototype Starship SN9 (thank you, Mark, for providing this info.) The SN9 is 160 feet in height, and when boosters are added, it will be 390 feet. Like other SpaceX rockets, this one is designed to be reusable. The Starship goes straight up, then, when preparing to land, flips to horizontal – belly flop mode. This mode allows the rocket to drop more slowly, reducing the dependence on fuel to slow it down. As it nears earth, it flips back to vertical, and hopefully, lands on its feet at the original launch pad. The circled rocket is the one that was scheduled to launch today.
The launch was scheduled for 12:55 pm, and we arrived at the park around 10:00 am. The weather today was fabulous today, and I took a nice long walk on the beach while waiting. I determined that our condo is only about a mile from Isla Blanca by beach, an easy walk if we choose to go there again.
The launch was delayed a few times, and finally set off around 2:00, which really isn’t too long a delay. There are many reasons why a launch is delayed or even aborted – humans too close to the launch pad, weather conditions, technical difficulties, etc. It was challenging to watch the launch when it did happen because we were looking into the sun. However, it was well worth the wait and the effort. The rocket went up a bit over 6 miles before flipping to horizontal, and beginning its descent. The sun angle made it difficult to locate the rocket after it achieved bellyflop mode, until it came closer to earth. At that point, it flipped again, but didn’t quite reach vertical, and it hit ground in a spectacular, fiery crash – exciting! It took about 27 seconds for the sound of the blast to reach us. While this may sound like a dismal failure, remember, this is a test, and each success or failure helps SpaceX learn what they need to do to improve next time.
In spite of the crash, we’re calling this a good day. It was exciting to watch the launch. We had some time afterwards to do a little more exploring and to take another walk on the beach.
Our condo faces east, and although we don’t see the sunset, we can still enjoy its effects on the clouds east of us.