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SpaceX Starship Prototype Explodes on Landing

'But we got all the data we needed!'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2020 2:52 AM CST

(Newser) – Elon Musk is very pleased with how the latest SpaceX rocket prototype performed during the flight portion of a test flight in Texas Wednesday—but the landing portion shows there is plenty of room for improvement. The uncrewed 16-story SN8 prototype failed to slow down enough during its descent and exploded in a fireball when it hit the ground, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD"—a rapid unscheduled disassembly, aka a crash—"but we got all the data we needed!" Musk tweeted. He added: "Mars here we come!"

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SpaceX has been testing its prototypes until they fail, and the SN8 was the first to attempt a high-altitude suborbital flight, the BBC reports. Musk said the spacecraft had a "successful ascent" and executed a complex maneuver that flipped it for a nose-down descent. The prototype was aiming for an altitude of 41,000 feet and it appeared to reach that goal or at least come close to it during the test flight, which lasted six minutes and 42 seconds, reports the AP. Weeks earlier, Musk predicted a 1-in-3 chance of success for the reusable spacecraft. When the Starship is perfected, SpaceX plans to use the spacecraft to deliver people and cargo to the moon and Mars. (Read more SpaceX stories.)

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