Another experiment of SpaceX’s Starship rocket failed when it exploded during landing in Boca Chica, Texas.
The prototype of SpaceX’s Starship rocket SN9 that blew up on its final descent, like the SN8 before it, was a test model of the heavy-lift rocket being developed by billionaire Elon Musk’s private space company to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo to the moon and Mars.
The self-guided, 16-story-tall rocket initially soared into the clear sky from its Gulf Coast launch pad on what appeared from SpaceX’s livestream coverage to be a flawless liftoff.
Reaching its planned peak altitude of 10 kilometers, the rocket then hovered momentarily in midair, shut off its engines and executed a “belly-flop” maneuver to descend nose-down under aerodynamic control back toward Earth.
The trouble came when the Starship, after flipping its nose upward again to begin its landing sequence, tried to reactivate two of its three Raptor thrusters, but one failed to ignite. The rocket then fell rapidly to the ground and exploded just 6 minutes and 26 seconds after launch.
The Starship SN8, the first prototype to fly in a high-altitude test launch, met a similar fate in December. No injuries were reported in both the incidents.
A SpaceX commentator for Tuesday’s launch webcast said the rocket’s flight “looked very good and stable, like we saw last December.”
But things got out of control while on way back to earth, he said and added that “we just have to work on that landing a little bit.”
The commentator said it was a test flight, “the second time we’ve flown Starship in this configuration.”
Musk, the maker of Tesla car, was not available as he said on Twitter that he planned to stay off the social media platform “for a while.”