Washington: A prototype of the future giant SpaceX rocket Starship — which the company hopes will become its go-to for Mars missions — along the Texas coast Wednesday.
But the company line was upbeat as a livestream of the launch displayed the on-screen message “AWESOME TEST. CONGRATS STARSHIP TEAM!”
“Mars, here we come!!” SpaceX founder Tesla s Elon Musk tweeted just minutes after the flight, explaining that a too-fast landing speed was to blame for the crash.
He recounted the successful parts of the rocket s short late afternoon trip: the take-off, the change of position in flight and its (pre-explosion) precise landing trajectory.
“We got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team,” he tweeted.
Wednesday’s test launch took off, then appeared to rise straight, and then one engine after another stalled. After flying for 4 minutes and 45 seconds, the third engine went out and the rocket began to descend in the expected position.
For the landing speed, the engine restarted a few seconds before landing, but it slammed into the earth.
A series of smaller prototypes have been launched hundreds of yards (meters) into the air in less than a minute, as part of a series of tests aimed at developing the company’s next-generation rockets at an alarming rate.
After several suspension attempts this week, the flight has been streamed in real time via the @SpaceX Twitter account.
The flight test plan examines the huge metal body of the SN8 (Spacecraft 8) and the aerodynamic power of its three engines, including when the spacecraft returns to Earth-this happens vertically, the same as SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Trailblazer rocket.
“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,” a statement on the company s website said, implying even before the launch that an explosion or crash would not mean a failed mission.
The construction of the next prototype SN9 is almost complete.
The test flight took place in the almost deserted Gulf of Mexico in southern Texas, near the border between the United States and Mexico.
Musk recently announced that he plans to move from California to the vast southern states of the United States.
Any future completed Starship rocket will be equipped with 37 engines instead of nine, and will measure 120 meters (390 feet) tall and be capable of carrying 100 tons of cargo into orbit around the Earth.
Musk hopes to be able to one day launch several of these space ships to Mars, though they could prove useful even in the short term as NASA eyes re-establishing an ongoing presence on the Moon in 2024.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is currently scheduled to pay an undisclosed sum to take Starship for a spin around the Moon in 2023 — at the earliest.