SpaceX flew its Starship SN8 vehicle for nearly seven minutes on Wednesday, but the ship exploded as it attempted to land at the test site in Boca Chica, Texas.
The vehicle flew vertically, powered by three Raptor engines. One engine stopped, and then a second one stopped firing, leaving a sole Raptor to power the flight.
“Successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.
Starship then pitched and glided to its landing area. However, SN8 was not able to right itself using engine power before it struck the ground at 6 minutes 42 seconds into the flight.
“Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!” Musk tweeted.
Prior to the flight test, Musk had estimated that SN8 had about a 30 percent chance of landing successfully.
SN8 was the latest in a series of Starship prototypes. SpaceX wants to use Starship and the Super Heavy rocket to launch crewed missions to the moon and Mars, satellites into orbit, and rapid point-to-point flights between distant locations on Earth.