Feb 2, 2021 - Science

SpaceX launches explosive test of prototype Starship

A Starship prototype takes flight in Texas
The Starship prototype launches. Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX's Starship prototype dubbed SN9 took flight from Texas on Tuesday for a test that ended in a fiery explosion after a successful launch.

Why it matters: The rocket is part of SpaceX's test program to build a space system that can transport people and payloads to deep space destinations like Mars.

Details: SN9 managed to make it up to its target altitude of about 10 kilometers after launch before flipping around and flying through the air sideways.

  • The prototype then flipped back in an attempt to land upright before exploding. The company's SN8 flight in December also ended in a fiery crash.
  • "We've just got to work on that landing a little bit," SpaceX's John Insprucker said during a webcast.

The intrigue: Space watchers have been waiting for this test for about a week, but it took until Monday night for the FAA to approve this most recent flight.

  • SpaceX violated its launch license during the SN8 test flight by exceeding the risk to the public allowed for the launch, leading leading to the FAA requiring SpaceX to conduct an investigation.
  • The results of that investigation were incorporated into the most recent test's launch license.
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