The SpaceX Starship SN11 prototype joinedin rocket heaven on Tuesday. The uncrewed flight of the next-generation rocket built by Elon Musk’s space company took flight from the Starship development facility in Boca Chica, Texas, at 8 a.m. local time amid heavy fog with no real visibility.
It lit up its three Raptor engines and soared to an altitude of about six miles (10 kilometers). Onboard cameras showed SN11 flapping its flaps above the cloud bank, with a blue sky background, momentarily before beginning its descent. SpaceX cameras froze up as the Raptors began to reignite for landing, and with the fog on the ground, it’s not clear exactly what happened, except that SN11 definitely exploded.
SpaceX commentator John Insprucker referred to it as “another exciting” test.
“We do appear to have lost all data from the vehicle,” he said.
A later statement from SpaceX confirmed that after the landing burn started, “SN11 experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly,” adding that “teams will continue to review data from and work toward our next flight test.”
It’s still not clear if SN11 crash-landed, exploded in the air or perhaps the flight termination system was activated to destroy the vehicle before it hit the ground.
“At least the crater is in the right place,” Musk tweeted shortly afterward. “Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we examine the bits later today.”