For a moment, Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s newest test rocket was sitting pretty Wednesday.
Then it was gone in a massive fireball.
The rocket was the third test of what SpaceX founder Elon Musk hopes will be a fleet of reusable rockets that will ferry travelers to the moon and, eventually, Mars.
Although the first two test rockets took off without incident, they exploded into fireballs before landing.
On Wednesday, things went slightly better.
“Third time’s a charm, as the saying goes,” SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker said at the Wednesday evening launch, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Around 5:15 p.m. in Boca Chica, Texas, the Starship SN-10 prototype roared about six miles up from SpaceX’s seaside launch pad, then went through maneuvers on its descent, with the goal of landing upright.
WAIT TILL YOU HEAR THIS ? Almost done with our 4K/slow mo recut and compilation of #SN10!!! This is a teaser of the landing in real time. Wait till you see it in slow mo! ? & that explosion ? wow. This is just too fun to capture! Can’t wait for the next one! @elonmusk @spacex pic.twitter.com/wWE334lgoI
— Everyday Astronaut (@Erdayastronaut) March 5, 2021
At first, it seemed like a success. The rocket was leaning a little, but it was upright.
WATCH: A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded minutes after successfully launching and landing in a high-altitude experimental test from Boca Chica, Texas on Wednesday. It was the third such attempt to end in flames. pic.twitter.com/FikD7UelbA
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 4, 2021
But it also was on fire, and about eight minutes after landing it blew up.
“We’ve had a successful soft touchdown on the landing pad, capping a beautiful test flight of Starship 10,” Insprucker said.
SN10 is in Valhalla nowhttps://t.co/dHy4tDVGnI
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 5, 2021
“As a reminder, a key point of today’s test flight was to gather the data on controlling the vehicle while re-entering, and we were successful in doing so,” he said.
The going theory was that a fire may have ignited fuel, leading to the blast.
Photo credit: Daniel Sanchez pic.twitter.com/kzK3fU2Bgf
— Adam Klotz (@Adamklotz_) March 5, 2021
Musk plans to use the Starship as a moon shuttle, land NASA astronauts there and eventually settle explorers on Mars.
The Starship’s first orbital flight is expected later this year, according to Bloomberg.
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