Test Flight of SpaceX Starship Prototype SN8 Ends in Explosion

Elon Musk tweets ‘Mars, here we come!!’ after low fuel header tank pressure leads to prototype’s crash-landing.

By Jyoti Kalash

An unmanned prototype of SpaceX’s future giant rocket Starship — which the company envisages as its go-to for Mars missions — crashed in a fiery explosion during its test launch from the company’s rocket facility in Boca Chica along the Texas coast today.

The company’s social media channels live streamed the self-guided rocket’s smooth launch and controlled descent before it disappeared into a ball of flame during the landing mishap.

SpaceX’s Starship SN8 rocket crash-lands along the Texas Coast. | Source: Gene Blevins/Reuters

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that SpaceX had obtained “all the data (we) needed” from the test and hailed the six-and-a-half-minute flight as “the gateway to Mars”. His private space company also hailed the launch as a success and a livestream displayed the on-screen message “AWESOME TEST. CONGRATS STARSHIP TEAM!”

Musk hailed the test launch as a success.

Immediately following the crash landing, Musk tweeted that the rocket’s “fuel header tank pressure was low” during descent, “causing touchdown velocity to be high”.

Fireball engulfs SpaceX’s Starship SN8 rocket | Source: Guardian News (Youtube)

The Starship destroyed in the accident was a 16-storey-tall prototype for the heavy-lift launch vehicle being developed by Space X to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars.

The test flight had been intended to reach an altitude of 41,000 feet (12,500 metres), propelled by three of SpaceX’s newly developed Raptor engines for the first time. SpaceX has not made it clear whether the rocket had flown that high.