McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — SpaceX successfully launched its Starship SN8, on Wednesday afternoon from its private launch pad in South Texas near Boca Chica Beach on its first high-altitude test flight, but the rocket appears to have exploded upon landing.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted shortly after the landing that the pressure of the fuel header tank was too low so the velocity during landing was higher than it should have been. But, he added “we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team.”
The launch and subsequent scheduled maneuvers appeared to go off without a hitch — until the landing. This came a day after the private space company’s failed attempted launch, which was aborted Tuesday by the Raptor engine’s auto feature with just 1.3 seconds to spare.
On Wednesday afternoon, the 16-story-tall rocket’s three Raptor engines blasted off lift of at 4:40 p.m. CST on its goal to reach 50,000 feet. Once it reached a certain velocity it coasted 12.5 kilometers, about nine miles to its altitude goal. It then executed a complicated “belly flop” maneuver to test its aerodynamics, at one point seeming to angle precariously back toward Earth before going horizontal for a couple minutes. At 6:33 minutes after launch the Raptor engines reignited.
But it was very close to the landing pad, which it suddenly hit and then appeared to break apart.
After the smoke cleared, the silver cone could be seen on the ground.
According to the SpaceX website, this was the first attempt at a high-altitude suborbital flight test from the Cameron County site.
The test’s objective is to show how the engines perform and the capabilities, according to the SpaceX.
SpaceX has previously completed two low altitude test with Starship SN5 and SN6.
With SN8, SpaceX is taking a step toward the development of transportation capable of carrying crew and cargo to Earth and orbit the moon and Mars, says the SpaceX website.
Some photos taken before and during the flight prior to its landing explosion: