SpaceX`s Starship rocket prototype exploded during a return-landing attempt on Wednesday (December 9), minutes after an apparently uneventful test launch from the company`s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, the explosion was caught on live video.
The Starship rocket destroyed was a 16-story-tall prototype for a heavy-lift launch vehicle being developed by Elon Musk`s private space company to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars.
SpaceX has already conducted five starship test flights. In the first high-altitude test flight of starship was aborted at the last second in Texas, the Starship rocket testing was automatically aborted just one second before the liftoff.
The self-guided rocket blew up as it touched down on a landing pad following a controlled descent. The test flight had been intended to reach an altitude of 41,000 feet, propelled by three of SpaceX`s newly developed Raptor engines for the first time.
Musk said in a tweet immediately following the accident that the rocket`s “fuel header tank pressure was low” during descent, “causing touchdown velocity to be high.”
He added that SpaceX had obtained “all the data we needed” from the test.
NASA awarded SpaceX $135 million to help develop Starship, alongside competing vehicles from rival ventures Blue Origin, owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, and Leidos-owned Dynetcis.
The three companies are vying for future contracts to build the moon landers under NASA’s Artemis program, which calls for a series of human lunar explorations within the next decade.
SpaceX has taken over Boca Chica in the far southeastern corner of Texas, near the Mexican border, to build and test its Starships. The company intends to use Starships the upper stage atop Super Heavy boosters to deliver massive satellites into orbit around Earth, and send people and cargo to the moon and Mars.
Starship landing flip maneuver pic.twitter.com/QuD9HwZ9CX
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 10, 2020