SpaceX Starship explodes on landing in latest test of Mars-bound craft

Elon Musk hopes to ferry people and cargo to Mars on hundreds of Starships in the future

Anthony Cuthbertson
Tuesday 02 February 2021 22:53
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SpaceX starship explodes on landing in latest test of Mars-bound craft
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SpaceX has performed the latest high-altitude flight test of its Mars-bound Starship spacecraft, resulting in a huge explosion upon landing.

The Starship SN9 prototype launched from SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas on Tuesday, reaching a height of roughly 10km before belly flopping back to Earth. 

Before reaching the landing pad it performed a complex landing flip manoeuvre but failed to right itself properly and crashed on the landing pad.

A previous attempt to launch and land a Starship prototype in December also resulted in a fiery explosion after a botched landing.

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Another attempt to launch and land a Starship prototype is expected in the near future, with SN10 already situated on a nearby launchpad.

The Starship SN9 and SN10 prototypes at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas ahead of Tuesday’s test flight

SpaceX emphasized both the importance and difficulty of achieving a safe landing for Starship in a post on its website ahead of Tuesday’s launch.

“A controlled aerodynamic descent with body flaps and vertical landing capability, combined with in-space refilling, are critical to landing Starship at destinations across the solar system where prepared surfaces or runways do not exist, and returning to Earth,” the post stated.

“This capability will enable a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration, interplanetary flights and help humanity return to the moon, and travel to Mars and beyond.”

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk previously stated that he hopes to manufacture up to 100 Starship crafts every year, each capable of carrying up to 100 people.

The technology billionaire has frequently spoken of his ambition to transform humanity into a multi-planetary species and hopes to send the first humans to Mars as early as 2024.

Tuesday’s test was only the second major high-altitude flight of a Starship craft, and despite achieving a lift-off and controlled descent, the landing attempt was not as good as SN8’s effort.

The setback is unlikely to deter Mr Musk, who last year made the development of Starship SpaceX’s “top priority”.

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