Elon Musk-run SpaceX managed to land its next generation heavy-lift rocket Starship for the first time but it exploded minutes later on the launching pad at a US facility.
Musk first celebrated the landing on Thursday, saying “Starship SN10 landed in one piece”, and then tweeted: “RIP SN10, honorable discharge”.
The Starship prototype named SN10 managed to land after carrying out a high-altitude test flight in Texas.
The launch test’s objective was to showcase the computer-controlled movements of the rocket’s four aerodynamic flaps that steer its descent before landing, according to SpaceX.
Starship is SpaceX’s ambitious spacecraft to take humans to Mars. The company has been working on prototypes to find the right design that will work for the transport.
SN10 slowly descended on its landing pad, softly touching down but leaning slightly to the side, and then exploded.
Last month, earlier prototype of Starship exploded after a high-altitude test flight in Texas.
The prototype, Starship serial number 9 (SN9), marked the completion of SpaceX’s second high-altitude flight test of a Starship prototype from the company’s site in Cameron County, Texas.
SpaceX had said that all four flaps were actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enable precise landing at the intended location.
But during the landing flip manoeuvre, one of the Raptor engines did not relight and caused SN9 to land at high speed, causing an explosion.
“These test flights are all about improving our understanding and development of 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 said.