SpaceX Starship prototype explodes during test

Space Science

MYSTERY WIRE — After a couple days of getting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to test the SpaceX Starship SN9 prototype at the company’s South Texas launch facility near the border with Mexico, the rocket exploded after failing to complete its landing maneuver as planned.

The full-scale stainless steel rocket reached its intended altitude of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers), slightly lower than the last one. Everything seemed to be going well as the 160-foot (50-meter) Starship flipped on its side and began its descent. But it did not manage to straighten itself back up in time for a landing and slammed into the ground.

“We’ve just got to work on that landing a little bit,” said SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker. “Reminder — this is a test flight.”

The next Starship stood nearby at the launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, during Tuesday’s test, which lasted 6 1/2 minutes.

Musk is developing Starship to carry people to Mars, perhaps in as little as several years. It’s the upper stage of his intended moon- and Mars-ships, meant to launch atop a mega rocket called Super Heavy that is still being developed.

SpaceX tried to launch Starship last week, but failed to get the necessary approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, prompting a Twitter outburst from Musk.

SpaceX did not comply with safety regulations for the Dec. 9 flight, an FAA spokesperson said Tuesday, and needed to take corrective action before proceeding with launch operations. Tuesday’s flight met all safety criteria, according to the FAA.

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