The new prototype of the next-generation Starship rocket from SpaceX was successfully launched on Tuesday but exploded on impact during a research test flight during an attempted landing.
It was the second such explosion in December since the last Starship prototype met a similar fate.
Starship prototype Serial Number 9, or SN9, intended to travel as high as 10 kilometers or as high as 32,800 feet of altitude. The flight was similar to the one carried out by SpaceX in December, when the SN8 prototype was launched on the highest and longest flight to date.
“We had, again, another great flight up …
we’ve just got to work on that landing a little bit,” SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker announced on the company’s live footage of the flight.
Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, was unexpectedly quiet on social media platform, announced the night before he was “Off Twitter for a while.”
The stainless steel rocket, dubbed SN9, was cleared for removal from Boca Chica, Texas by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which had earlier delayed the granting of authorization after it had been determined that the last launch of SpaceX violated the terms of its license.
The rocket launched smoothly around 3:30 p.m. local time (2030 GMT) and gradually shut down its engines as it reached a height of 10 kilometers (6 miles), followed by a series of test maneuvers in a horizontal “belly flop” position.
Tuesday’s launch was delayed by a few days due to problems stemming from the last Starship test of SpaceX on December 9, which also took place in flames.
SpaceX requested a waiver that would exceed the maximum permissible risk to the public of Starship SN8.
The FAA denied the request, but SpaceX was still going ahead, landing the company in hot water.
The regulator denied SpaceX the opportunity to launch last week and asked them to take corrective action and finally to approve it on Monday night.