Elon Musk reveals “a (relatively) small” methane leak that caused Starship SN11 to explode

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SpaceX launched its Starship Serial Number 11 (SN11) on March 30 for a high-altitude test that ended with the rocket detonated and debris raining down from the sky – and Elon Musk has officially revealed what happened.

The billionaire shared details on Twitter, saying that ‘a (relatively) minor’ methane leak led to its demise, causing SN to explode 10 weeks earlier.

Musk tweeted a CH4 leak that caused one of the three Raptor engines to catch fire, ‘fried’ part of the electronic system. ‘

However, the ascent phase, transition to horizontal and control during free fall all went according to plan, he shared in the tweet.

In addition to an update on SN11, news also emerged that SpaceX received approval Monday for a road closure that will see the SN15 roll out to the launch pad.

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The billionaire shared details on Twitter, saying that 'a (relatively) minor' methane leak led to its demise, causing SN to explode 10 weeks earlier.  Musk tweeted a CH4 leak that caused one of the three Raptor engines to catch fire, 'fried' part of the avionics system

The billionaire shared details on Twitter, saying that ‘a (relatively) minor’ methane leak led to its demise, causing SN to explode 10 weeks earlier. Musk tweeted a CH4 leak that caused one of the three Raptor engines to catch fire, ‘fried’ part of the avionics system

SpaceX launched SN11 around 9:15 a.m. ET on March 30 for its first high-altitude test where the rocket would fly six miles into the air.

But SN11 took off in dense fog, so all that could really be seen was the ignition of its massive Raptor engines at the rocket’s base.

Minutes after launch, SpaceX’s live stream froze and engineer John Insprucker, who hosted the live stream, said, “Starship 11 is not coming back, don’t wait for landing.”

“Looks like we’ve lost all of the vehicle’s data.”

SN11 exploded mid-launch and pieces of the rocket rained down over the SpaceX test facility in Boca Chica, Texas

SN11 exploded mid-launch and pieces of the rocket rained down over the SpaceX test facility in Boca Chica, Texas

SN11 exploded mid-launch and pieces of the rocket rained down over the SpaceX test facility in Boca Chica, Texas

SpaceX launched SN11 around 9:15 a.m. ET on March 30 for its first high-altitude test where the rocket would fly six miles into the air.  Depicted are images of SN11 through the dense fog before it exploded

SpaceX launched SN11 around 9:15 a.m. ET on March 30 for its first high-altitude test where the rocket would fly six miles into the air.  Depicted are images of SN11 through the dense fog before it exploded

SpaceX launched SN11 around 9:15 a.m. ET on March 30 for its first high-altitude test where the rocket would fly six miles into the air. Depicted are images of SN11 through the dense fog before it exploded

Independent cameras around the launch pad at SpaceX’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas, were able to capture the aftermath.

Large pieces of debris rained down from the sky and then a large object was seen falling through the thick layer of fog.

Musk shared speculation about what may have happened on Twitter shortly after the failed mission.

Minutes after launch, SpaceX’s live stream froze and engineer John Insprucker, who hosted the live stream, said, “Starship 11 is not coming back, don’t wait for landing.” Pictured is a stretch of SN11 that landed five miles from the launch track

“ Engine 2 had problems taking off and did not reach workroom pressure during landing, but in theory it was not necessary, ” the tweet reads.

“Something important happened shortly after the take-off of the landing. If we only need to know what it was, we can review the pieces later in the day. ‘

The previous prototype, SN10, also suffered a methane leak after the first high-altitude test on March 3.

The huge missile exploded about 10 minutes after landing on the launch pad.

The failure occurred after SpaceX declared it a success as SN10 flew, flipped and landed without crashing and burning like the previous SN8 and SN9 prototypes – CEO Elon Musk praised the rocket in a tweet for ‘landing in one piece’ .

“Third time is a charm, as the saying goes,” Insprucker said during SpaceX’s livestream on March 3.

“We had a successful soft touchdown on the landing pad covering a beautiful test flight of Starship 10.”

The previous prototype, SN10, also suffered a methane leak after the first high-altitude test on March 3.  The huge missile exploded about 10 minutes after landing on the launch pad.

The previous prototype, SN10, also suffered a methane leak after the first high-altitude test on March 3.  The huge missile exploded about 10 minutes after landing on the launch pad.

The previous prototype, SN10, also suffered a methane leak after the first high-altitude test on March 3. The huge missile exploded about 10 minutes after landing on the launch pad.

The failure occurred after SpaceX declared it a success as SN10 flew, flipped and landed without crashing and burning like the previous SN8 and SN9 prototypes - CEO Elon Musk praised the rocket in a tweet for 'landing in one piece' .

The failure occurred after SpaceX declared it a success as SN10 flew, flipped and landed without crashing and burning like the previous SN8 and SN9 prototypes - CEO Elon Musk praised the rocket in a tweet for 'landing in one piece' .

The failure occurred after SpaceX declared it a success as SN10 flew, flipped and landed without crashing and burning like the previous SN8 and SN9 prototypes – CEO Elon Musk praised the rocket in a tweet for ‘landing in one piece’ .

Some sources speculate that the landing legs attached to the base were not deployed, causing the missile to overturn and crush the pipes with methane.

The force of the explosion was enough to send the body of the large rocket – which had tilted slightly to one side after landing -, causing it to flip and land on its side to the ground.

An object that could be a methane tank was seen lying on the Boca Chica landing area after the fire and smoke from the massive explosion cleared.

However, SN10 was able to complete its mission to collect data on the missile piloting on its return, and many called the launch a success rather than another Starship failure.

Musk announced on Twitter a few hours after SN11 exploded that “ SN15 will roll to the launch pad in a few days. It has hundreds of design improvements in structures, avionics / software and engine. Hopefully one of those improvements will cover this issue. If not, the retrofit will yield a few more days. ‘

And Monday seems to be the day SN15 will make its journey to the launch pad.

Some sources speculate that the landing legs attached to the base were not deployed, causing the missile to overturn and crush the pipes with methane.  The force of the explosion was enough to steer the body of the large missile

Some sources speculate that the landing legs attached to the base were not deployed, causing the missile to overturn and crush the pipes with methane.  The force of the explosion was enough to steer the body of the large missile

Some sources speculate that the landing legs attached to the base were not deployed, causing the missile to overturn and crush the pipes with methane. The force of the explosion was enough to steer the body of the large missile

The road closure is on April 5 from 8:00 am ET to 1:00 pm ET and is for Highway 4 around the Boca Chica facility.

The reason the prototype jumped from 11 to 15 is due to SpaceX’s rapid progress in design upgrades – SN12 through SN14 were dropped as they were obsolete.

The Starship is made of stainless steel, which is 50 meters high, and features a nose cone and flaps on the side.

Each missile launched was tasked with gathering data in flight to better improve the next.