- The SN9 prototype of SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded during the landing after a high-altitude test launch.
- This is for the second time that the landing of a rocket failed.
- The FAA announced it would look into the mishap despite tensions with SpaceX owner Elon Musk.
Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket -- Starship prototype Serial Number 9 (SN9) -- though launched successfully on 2 February, exploded while attempting to land after a development test flight.
According to reports, the SN9 was scheduled to fly around 10 kilometres high but exploded on its return, similar to the SN8 flight which burst in December 2020. Either of the incidents has not resulted in any injury.
The explosion occurred 6 minutes and 26 seconds after a successful launch wherein the prototype rocket had reached an altitude of over 32,000 feet.
The Starship attempted to reactivate two of its three Raptor thrusters during its final descent, but one failed to ignite. The SN9 rocket is a self-guided, 16-story-tall heavy-lift rocket test model currently being developed for human and cargo space travel.
Despite the explosion, the company has termed the flight a successful one as it helped it gather useful data. Besides, the company claimed that it aided in achieving its primary goal of demonstrating control of the test rocket and its subsonic re-entry.
The experimental launch was live streamed, and commentators claimed that the launch showed stable and satisfactory re-entry into Earth and altitude, but the country has to work on the landing for the future.
SpaceX officials said the next flight Starship SN10 is already in works and was ready to be launched. The space company aims to have a complete Starship rocket inclusive of a super-heavy first-stage booster as part of its next-generation fully reusable launch vehicle. The Starship’s first orbital flight is planned for the end of 2021.
SpaceX plans also include the goal of carrying humans and 100 tonnes of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars by making human space travel affordable and routine. The entrepreneur had also announced plans to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon in 2023.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said it would investigate the mishap that occurred on Tuesday despite tensions with Musk following an earlier inquiry. The air travel agency had previously mentioned SpaceX’s December launch was conducted without demonstrating public safety measures. However, the space company claimed that it had undertaken corrective actions approved by the FAA and incorporated into Tuesday’s launch.