Why was the SpaceX Starship SN10 slanted when it landed?

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  • Was the landing pad uneven?
  • Or did the Starship land a little way away from it?
  • Or was this caused due to hull damage?

1 Answer 1


It is probably due to a combination of factors. But the landing pad wasn't uneven and Starship didn't land away from it.

There were two main factors which contributed to the hard landing. Firstly the landing legs did not appear to deploy properly. Looking at close up images of the landing it is possible to see some of them swinging and not locking into position. So the ship landed unevenly to begin with.

But Elon Musk later confirmed via a tweet that there was an engine control problem of some sort: "Thrust was low despite being commanded high for reasons unknown at present, hence hard touchdown. We’ve never seen this before. Next time, min two engines all the way to the ground & restart engine 3 if engine 1 or 2 have issues."

With both issues together it is surprising that SN10 didn't explode upon impact. The uneven landing due to the legs and the hard landing (it actually bounced) due to the engine control issue combined to cause structural damage causing the lean and pipework or engine damage leading ultimately to the explosion when the residual methane in the header tank exploded.

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Re the legs: Musk also added: "This was way past leg loads. They got squashed hard." $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 20:10
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is true, SN10 would have probably exploded from the heavy landing even if the legs had deployed. But the lopsided leg deployment would certainly not have helped and may well have contributed both to the degree of damage caused and the lean. $\endgroup$
    – Slarty
    Commented Mar 6, 2021 at 22:47
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It also landed on 1 engine. If you want to point the thrust vector of the engine straight up, but also through the center of mass of the vehicle, the vehicle will have to be tilted as it comes down. That side will feel the impact first and deform more. I believe this was also seen (in different amounts of crush core usage in the legs) on SN5 and/or SN6. $\endgroup$
    – AI0867
    Commented Mar 18, 2021 at 11:29

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