SpaceX rocket explodes on impact after test flight, Musk still declares it success

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SpaceX launched a new unmanned Starship prototype rocket to record-setting heights Wednesday, and CEO Elon Musk called the mission a success despite the ship exploding on impact as it attempted a landing.

The vessel dubbed the Starship prototype Serial Number 8, or SN8, had a smooth launch to nearly 40,000 feet, reportedly completing several of its targeted development objectives before it crashed on reentry, CNBC reported.

“Successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point!” Musk tweeted Wednesday evening.

Musk explained that the fuel header tank pressure was low during the landing burn, causing a higher-than-intended velocity during the landing cycle. Still, the SpaceX founder posted to social media, saying, “we got all the data we needed!”

The SN8 is built of stainless steel and serves as a prototype for creating a Starship with the ability to carry tons of cargo and as many as 100 passengers at a time. The goal is to one day use the rockets for trips to both the Moon and Mars.

The rocket tests are being conducted at SpaceX’s growing Boca Chica facility near the Gulf of Mexico coast, 20 miles east of Brownsville, Texas.

In a statement before the launch, Musk already anticipated a low probability the rocket would survive given the multiple milestones he set out to measure.

“Lot of things need to go right, so maybe 1/3 chance” of the rocket landing in one piece, Musk had said.

“With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship,” SpaceX said in a statement on its website. 

Tags Elon Musk Spaceflight SpaceX SpaceX launch vehicles SpaceX reusable launch system development program

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