SpaceX Starship rocket prototype nails land … then explodes

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© Reuters. Maxar’s WorldView 3 satellite shows an overview of the SpaceX Starship SN10 launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas

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(Reuters) – The third time seemed to be the stimulus for Elon Musk’s Starship rocket – until it was no more.

SpaceX’s latest prototype heavy launch vehicle flew flawlessly in the skies in a high altitude test in Boca Chica, Texas on Wednesday and then flew back to Earth for the first upright landing for a spacecraft model.

But the triumph was short-lived. The spaceship, which was slightly set aside when an automated fire extinguishing system trained a jet of water on flames still burning at the bottom of the rocket, blew itself to pieces about eight minutes after touchdown.

It was the third such landing attempt that ended in a ball of fire after an otherwise successful test flight for the spacecraft developed by SpaceX to carry people and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars.

For Musk, billionaire SpaceX founder who also runs electric car maker Tesla (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc, the results have been mixed news.

The Starship SN10 came much closer to a secure vertical placement than two previous models – SN8 in December and SN9 in February. In a tweet in response to spirited congratulations from an admirer of his work, Musk replied, “RIP SN10, honorable discharge.”

The video feed provided by SpaceX on the company’s YouTube channel was paused shortly after landing. However, separate fan feeds streamed through the same social media platform showed an explosion that suddenly erupted at the base of the missile, throwing the SN10 into the air before crashing to the ground and bursting into flames.

The complete Starship rocket, which, when coupled with its super-heavy first stage booster, will be 120 meters tall, is SpaceX’s fully reusable next-generation launcher – the center of Musk’s ambitions to make space travel more affordable and routine.

A first orbital spacecraft flight is planned for the end of the year. Musk has said he intends to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon in the spaceship in 2023.

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