In a day of mixed fortunes for SpaceX and space enthusiasts the world over, Elon Musk’s space exploration company finally managed to land one of their Starship rockets, but not for long as it exploded over the landing pad a few minutes later.
The rocket, codenamed the SN10 prototype, took off from South Texas around 5:15 pm CT and traveled more than 9km over the state before touching down at Boca Chica. However, as can be seen in the video footage, a fire developed soon after around its base and landing gear and culminated in a huge explosion due to which the hopes of many were blown into smithereens once again.
According to preliminary investigation reports, the explosion was caused by a methane leak. During the flight, the Starship can be seen to move smoothly along its intended course and even managed to nail the belly-flop descent that simulates how operational Starships will enter the atmosphere of the Earth after leaving orbit. In fact, everything seemed to be going exactly according to plan until the rocket exploded.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though, since the SN8 and SN9 prototypes did not even manage to stick the landing and this test is hugely encouraging for SpaceX since it moves them one step closer to developing a rocket that can take humans to Mars. Not only that, but the SN10 prototype also managed to execute the in-flight maneuvers required to ensure a soft landing, something that will only be improved in the next test flight.
SpaceX is currently testing its new Starship rockets slated to replace the existing Falcon rockets employed by both NASA and the U.S military. The Starships are bigger and better than any other rocket developed by SpaceX and will be able to carry out many kinds of heavy-duty missions such as long-duration flights to outer space and even missions to Mars. In fact, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has already promised a lunar excursion to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, along with 8 others. The ‘dearMoon’ project is set to launch in 2023, and applications are now open if you want to join Mr. Maezawa.