A prototype of SpaceX’s future giant Starship rocket successfully landed in Texas on Wednesday, before exploding on the ground a few minutes later.
“Starship SN10 has landed in one piece!” Responded in a tweet, an hour after the explosion, the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk. “The SpaceX team is doing a great job! One day, the real measure of success will be that Starship flights have become commonplace. ”
“A wonderful soft landing,” SpaceX commented in the video broadcasting the test flight live. Flames were however visible at the foot of the rocket, being extinguished by the teams on site. A few minutes later, a huge explosion threw the craft into the air, which shattered as it fell to the ground.
This vehicle is set to become the rocket of choice for SpaceX, founded by billionaire Elon Musk, to one day go to Mars.
Two previous failures
The prototype, named SN10, for “Serial Number 10”, took off a little before 12:20 am (Swiss time) from Boca Chica, Texas, for a third suborbital test. The machine rose in the sky, propelled by three engines, which went out one after the other, and the vehicle overturned to place itself in a horizontal position.
It reached 10 kilometers altitude, before starting its descent, and the rocket then returned to a vertical position, managing to land, at first glance without incident, at the desired location.
Two other prototypes (SN8 and SN9) had crashed on landing, in December, then in early February. These tests are taking place in a near-deserted area leased by SpaceX, in the far south of Texas, near the border with Mexico and on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico – an area empty enough for an accident or explosion to fail. cause no damage, nor do any victims.
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Elon Musk imagines one day launching several of these ships to conquer Mars. But initially, the rocket, if it became operational, could prove useful for closer trips, especially to the Moon.
Eight people invited to tour the moon
It is in this vehicle that the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is supposed to go around the moon, in theory in 2023, a trip at the confidential price.
In a video posted to his Twitter account Wednesday, he invited eight people “from all over the world” to join him. Aspiring astronauts must pre-register by March 14, and a first selection must be made a week later.
The future rocket will consist, in addition to the manned spaceship, of a first stage called Super Heavy. The whole will measure 120 meters in height and will be able to carry 100 tons on board.