Elon Musk's SpaceX on Tuesday saw yet another failed landing as the latest Starship rocket broke apart right before touchdown. It's successors had met a similar fate, with the latest being the Starship SN10 which burst into flames minutes after landing successfully.
"Looks like engine 2 had issues on ascent & didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but, in theory, it wasn’t needed. Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today," Musk tweeted.
"At least the crater is in the right place!" he quipped.
A camera on the rocket froze not quite six minutes into the test flight, and dense fog in South Texas obscured views of the ruptured rocket. Other video showed debris raining down and explosions could be heard. This was the fourth full-scale stainless steel model to launch since December to an altitude of more than 6 miles (10 kilometers). The previous three exploded at touchdown or shortly afterward.
SpaceX plans to use Starship to send astronauts and cargo to the moon and, ultimately, Mars. Musk said earlier this month that SpaceX will be landing Starships on Mars "well before 2030." But he noted that "the really hard threshold is making Mars Base Alpha self-sustaining."
But while the latest rocket may have exploded, SpaceX has many more milestones planned. "SN15 rolls to launch pad in a few days. It has hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software & engine. Hopefully, one of those improvements covers this problem. If not, then retrofit will add a few more days," remarked Musk.