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Setback for Musk as SpaceX rocket explodes on landing

Setback for Musk as SpaceX rocket explodes on landing

SpaceX’s Starship prototype exploded while attempting to land on Wednesday, after an otherwise successful test launch, with green and yellow flames engulfing the landing site just outside the small coastal town of Boca Chica in Texas, live video of the flight showed.

Elon Musk said in a tweet immediately following the landing mishap that the rocket’s “fuel header tank pressure was low” during descent, “causing touchdown velocity to be high. SpaceX had obtained all the data we needed from the test,’’ he added.

According to a Reuters report from Washington , the Starship rocket destroyed in the accident was a 16-storey-tall prototype for the heavy-lift launch vehicle being developed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private space company to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars.

The self-guided rocket blew up as it touched down on a landing pad following a controlled descent. The test flight had been intended to reach an altitude of 41,000 feet, propelled by three of SpaceX’s newly developed Raptor engines for the first time.

According to CNN, the hulking rocket didn't have anyone on board. The test flight marked the highest test flight yet of the technology Musk hopes will one day ferry the first humans to go to Mars, and a fiery ending was not totally unexpected. Musk attempted to dampen expectations before the flight, saying in one tweet that he predicted the "SN8" vehicle, the name for the Starship prototype used Wednesday, had a one-in-three chance of landing safely back on Earth.

SpaceX and Musk are known to embrace mishaps during the early stages of new spacefaring technology development. The company's ethos is to move quickly and learn from errors, rather than taking the NASA approach of slowly conducting thorough research and ground tests before putting a rocket on a launch pad.

SpaceX made its first attempt to launch Starship on Tuesday, but a problem with its Raptor engines forced an automatic abort just one second before liftoff.

The complete Starship rocket, which will stand 394-feet (120.09 meters) tall when mated with its super-heavy first-stage booster, is the company’s next-generation fully reusable launch vehicle – the center of Musk’s ambitions to make human space travel more affordable and routine.

NASA awarded SpaceX $135 million to help develop Starship, alongside competing vehicles from rival ventures Blue Origin, the space company owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos, and Leidos-owned Dynetcis.

The three companies are vying for future contracts to build the moon landers under NASA’s Artemis program, which calls for a series of human lunar explorations within the next decade.

SpaceX has been buying up residential properties in the Boca Chica village but has faced resistance from residents unwilling to sell their homes..