SpaceX Starship Prototype Successfully Lands, But Then Explodes

This reusable rocket needs a little more work.

By Stephanie Mlot

SpaceX/YouTube via PC Mag
Starship successfully lands at SpaceX's South Texas site

This story originally appeared on PCMag

Yesterday, SpaceX almost successfully completed a high-altitude flight test of a Starship rocket. We say "almost," as the prototype test was going well and completed an almost perfect landing, but then it exploded.

Like siblings SN8 and SN9 that came before, SN10 was powered by three engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to reaching apogee — about six miles in altitude. The vehicle performed as expected, reorienting itself for reentry and descending into a precise landing at the intended location.

"Starship SN10 landed in one piece," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday—almost willing something to go wrong. SpaceX's livestream video ended before the eruption, giving the appearance of victory. Ten minutes later, the reusable rocket was reusable no more. NASASpaceflight continued to record and captured the explosion. You can watch what happened in the video here at about the 10:39 mark.

"As if the flight test was not exciting enough, SN10 experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly shortly after landing," according to SpaceX, which left out the gory details. Various reports suggest a massive fire at the vehicle's base sent it on an impromptu second trip into the sky.

"All in all a great day for the Starship teams," the company website said. "These test flights are all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration interplanetary flights, and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond."

"SpaceX team is doing great work," Musk added in a tweet. "One day, the true measure of success will be that Starship flights are commonplace."

Related: Elon Musk Is Creating a City in Texas. It Will Be Called Starbase and It Will Be Ruled by 'The Doge.'

This isn't the aerospace manufacturer's first explosion. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) last month concluded investigations into a pair of recent SpaceX Starship trials, including the botched touchdowns of two high-altitude test flights.

In early December, SpaceX successfully launched its Starship rocket — which crash-landed back on Earth. Two months later, the firm sent the SN9 soaring miles above the company's Texas facilities, completing another successful flight demonstration — which, once again, ended in a fiery explosion of prototype pieces.

Stephanie Mlot

Reporter at PCMag

Stephanie began as a PCMag reporter in May 2012. She moved to New York City from Frederick, Md., where she worked for four years as a multimedia reporter at the second-largest daily newspaper in Maryland. She interned at Baltimore magazine and graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania (in the town of Indiana, in the state of Pennsylvania) with a degree in journalism and mass communications.

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