SpaceX launches Starship prototype on spectacular test flight, rocket explodes on touchdown

A full-scale prototype of of SpaceX’s futuristic Starship rocket blasted off from south Texas Wednesday in the program’s most ambitious test flight to date, soaring to airliner altitudes before falling back to Earth and righting itself as planned for a tail-first landing attempt. (CBS News)

However, the 160-foot-tall prototype hit the ground going faster than expected and exploded in a spectacular conflagration that destroyed the unpiloted test vehicle. But the successful climb to a planned altitude of about 41,000 feet, the rocket’s active steering during descent and the dramatic flip from horizontal to vertical for landing marked a major milestone for SpaceX. (CBS News)

“Mars, here we come!” Musk tweeted after the test. (CBS News)

The test flight marked the highest test flight yet of the technology Musk hopes will one day ferry the first humans to go to Mars, and a fiery ending was not totally unexpected. Musk attempted to dampen expectations before the flight, saying in one tweet that he predicted the “SN8” vehicle, the name for the Starship prototype used Wednesday, had a one-in-three chance of landing safely back on Earth. (CNN)

The SN8 did manage to maneuver back to its landing target, but Musk said via Twitter that an issue with the rocket’s fuel system caused it to make a crash landing. Green and yellow flames engulfed the landing site, which lies just outsides the small coastal town of Boca Chica, Texas. (CNN)

SpaceX and Musk are known to embrace mishaps during the early stages of new spacefaring technology development. The company’s ethos is to move quickly and learn from errors, rather than taking the more NASA-esque approach of slowly conducting thorough research and ground tests before putting a rocket on a launch pad. (CNN)

Next up, SpaceX plans to fly another prototype, SN9, and work up toward the first orbital flight.  (C Net)




Categories: Space

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