SpaceX test rocket detonates on landing after successful launch

SpaceX says it has successfully launched its Starship SN8 prototype. The test missile appears to have achieved its main objectives, although there was an explosion during the vertical landing of the missile.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says on Twitter that all the data that was needed has been collected. In doing so, he acknowledges that something went wrong during landing. According to Musk, there was a low pressure in the tank during ignition of the engine to decelerate for landing. This resulted in the missile being overspeed on hitting the landing pad, with Musk using the term rapid unplanned disassembly, referring to the explosion. That explosion took place 6 minutes and 42 seconds after launch.

On Wednesday, SN8 took off from the launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, with the aim, among other things, to reach a height of 12.5 kilometers. Musk seems to suggest that that goal has actually been achieved. In addition, the 50-meter long and nine-meter wide rocket had to perform a number of maneuvers in the air, including positioning itself horizontally and descending in preparation for landing.

SN8 was equipped with three Raptor methane engines and in the following tests it is the turn of SN9 and SN10, two prototypes already built. Previous test launches with smaller prototypes didn’t go nearly as high as SN8; then heights of about 150 meters were achieved.

The ultimate goal of these tests is to prepare the nearly 120-meter Starship rocket, with the first Super Heavy rocket stage to be equipped with some 30 Raptor engines. The second stage, the Starship section, will have six. This rocket must, among other things, achieve the goal of putting the first human on Mars.