SpaceX Test Of Starship Prototype Ends In Fireball, Musk Hails Achievement

HAWTHORNE (CNS) - Hawthorne-based SpaceX launched a prototype spaceship on a high-altitude test flight in southern Texas today, and while it successfully soared into the air and performed a “flip'' maneuver on its descent, the ship exploded upon landing.

Despite the fireball finale, the flight was still considered an overall success, due to the information gathered about the vehicle's capabilities that company officials said will help guide engineers as they continue development of the Starship.

In fact, company founder Elon Musk noted earlier this week that there was only about a 33% chance of the Starship achieving all of its goals on the test flight, and landing intact.

Even after the explosive landing, Musk tweeted, “Mars, here we come!!''

The Starship is envisioned as a reusable transport system for crew and cargo, anticipated to ultimately journey to the “Moon, Mars and beyond,'' according to SpaceX.

The ship used in Wednesday's test flight -- launched from SpaceX's facility near Boca Chica, Texas -- was dubbed SN8. The ship traveled nearly eight miles into the air before beginning its descent, during which it made a “flip maneuver'' en route to the landing pad. SpaceX said the maneuver would be “a first for a vehicle of this size.''

Prior to its flight, SpaceX noted on its website that the company wasn't expecting perfection from the short trip.

“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,'' according to the company.

Musk wrote on his Twitter page that the “fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high.'' But, he added, “we got all the data we needed!'' He noted the vehicle's “successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point.''

Photo: Getty Images

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