Published: Wed, January 27, 2021
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SpaceX Starship prototype explodes in fireball landing during test run

SpaceX Starship prototype explodes in fireball landing during test run

Amazingly, the actual pilot of the NASA WB-57 reconnaissance aircraft tasked with capturing aerial photos and videos of Starship SN8's first flight is on Twitter and confirmed that the aircraft had been just a few minutes from takeoff before SpaceX chose to delay the launch for a few more hours. The SN8 prototype that flew yesterday had three Raptor engines for the first time, allowing it to get much higher.

After the flight, Musk tweeted that it was a "successful ascent" and that the vehicle performed well. When it touched down, however, the rocketship became engulfed in flames and ruptured, parts scattering.

Its Raptor engines reignited for braking and Starship tilted back upright. However, six minutes and forty seconds into the flight, it disintegrated upon hitting the surface.

Musk had kept expectations low, cautioning earlier this week there was "probably" 1-in-3 chance of complete success. He said pressure in a fuel tank was low on descent and caused the landing velocity to be too high.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who founded the Blue Origin rocket company, praised the launch, saying: "Anyone who knows how hard this stuff is is impressed by today's Starship test".

Excitement for the launch had built up after the test launch was canceled at the last second on Tuesday in the small town of Boca Chica in Texas. And the company's engineers have been rather proactive in iterating the design, quickly moving through the building and testing of prototypes, starting with the unveiling of the first version in January previous year, to the 500-ft (150-m) hop test of SN5 a few months ago, to today's flight of SN8.

Starship is actually the upper stage of Musk's envisioned moon- and Mars-ships.

Starship is just a part of the vessel which is planned to take people on trips to Mars with the entire rocket set to stand at 394 feet tall.

Beyond that development milestone, SpaceX has won a contract from NASA to devise a version of Starship that can land astronauts on the moon in 2024.

The SN8 Starship is one of the boldest creation in the space industry, with famous reusable rocket designers' SpaceX to feature the spacecraft.

Right before Wednesday's launch, NASA announced the 18 USA astronauts who will train for the Artemis moon-landing program.

During an interview with The Washington Post in 2016, when Musk was calling Starship the "Mars Colonial Transporter", he said his goal was "having an architecture that would enable the creation of a self-sustaining city on Mars with the objective of being a multi-planet species and a true space-faring civilization and one day being out there among the stars". But Musk is the first to admit his timelines can be overly optimistic.

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