Tuesday 30 March 2021 4:31 pm

SpaceX: Elon Musk’s Starship rocket crash lands after test flight

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has suffered another failed test flight of its Starship rocket, which appears to have exploded during a landing attempt today.

The uncrewed prototype was successfully launched from Boca Chica in Texas this morning for its fourth major test flight.

But the Starship appears to have been destroyed during a crash landing, though poor weather conditions mean the details are still unclear.

The livestream of the launch froze as the rocket came in to land, while thick fog made it difficult to view the landing.

“We do appear to have lost all the data from the vehicle,” SpaceX engineer John Insprucker said during the webcast video. “We’re going to have to find out from the team what happened.”

The launch of the prototype Serial Number 11 — or SN11 — had already been pushed back twice.

Three previous launches of the SN8, SN9 and SN10 have also ended in explosions.

“Looks like engine 2 had issues on ascent & didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but, in theory, it wasn’t needed,” Musk wrote in a tweet following the test flight.

“Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today.”

Replays later showed a huge flash of light and debris falling to the ground. Musk appeared to acknowledge the explosion, writing: “At least the crater is in the right place!”

Despite the setback, the bullish billionaire said SpaceX’s next prototype, the SN15, would be on the launch pad “in a few days”.

“It has hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software & engine,” he wrote. “Hopefully, one of those improvements covers this problem. If not, then retrofit will add a few more days.”

Musk’s Starship project is one of two major projects being developed by SpaceX, alongside its Starlink satellite internet scheme.

The company hopes its rockets will be able to carry cargo and crew to the moon, Mars and beyond.