Watch: SpaceX Starship explodes into a fireball after its high altitude test flight

WION Web Team
Washington, United States Published: Feb 03, 2021, 09.10 AM(IST)

The SpaceX Starship SN9 explodes after its high altitude test flight from test facilities in Boca Chica, Texas Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

The Starship 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 entrepreneur Elon Musk's private space company to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars

A prototype of SpaceX's Starship rocket crash-landed and exploded in flames after its high altitude test flight from test facilities in Boca Chica, Texas.

The self-guided, 16-story-tall rocket initially soared into the clear, blue South Texas sky from its Gulf Coast launch pad on what appeared from SpaceX's live stream coverage to be a flawless liftoff.

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Reaching its peak altitude of about 10 km (6 miles), the spacecraft then hovered momentarily in midair, shut off its engines and executed a planned "belly-flop" manoeuvre to descend nose-down under aerodynamic control back toward Earth.

Also read: SpaceX announces first commercial astronaut mission to orbit 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, exploding in a roaring ball of flames, smoke and debris - 6 minutes and 26 seconds after launch.

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The Starship 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 entrepreneur Elon Musk's private space company to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars.

Also read: Watch: SpaceX's starship prototype blasts off, crashes in fireball on landing

The company's founder Elon Musk was uncharacteristically quiet on social media, having announced the night before he was "Off Twitter for a while."

The stainless steel rocket, dubbed SN9 or "Serial Number 9," was cleared for lift-off from Boca Chica, Texas by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) less than a day earlier.

The complete Starship rocket, which will stand 394-feet (120 meters) tall when mated with its super-heavy first-stage booster, is the company's next-generation fully reusable launch vehicle - the center of Musk's ambitions to make human space travel more affordable and routine.

A first orbital Starship flight is planned for year's end. Musk has said he intends to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon with the Starship in 2023.

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