Elon Musk’s Starship, a rocket designed to be fully reusable, managed to take off and land at a test facility in Texas Wednesday but blew up minutes after touching down.
The starship, developed by Musk’s privately held SpaceX, flew to a height of about 10km before shutting off all engines and dropping back towards earth. A dramatic re-ignition of the engines about a mile above the ground then turned the craft into its vertical orientation and slowed its descent, allowing it to land upright amid huge plumes of dust.
It was the second attempt of the day for the craft, which aborted its first takeoff try earlier on what Musk called a “slightly conservative high thrust limit,” in a tweet.
After the landing, a fire was visible at the base of the vehicle.
Two previous test rockets managed to take off but exploded before they could complete the landing.
Musk has touted the Starship as a means of traveling to Mars.
The ability to land the vehicle, which uses fins on its fuselage to help direct its flight, is key to the further development of Musk’s ambitions for vastly expanding space travel.
Even after the explosion, Musk put out a celebratory tweet saying “Starship SN10 landed in one piece!”
SpaceX is poised to launch a four-man crew to the international space station next month from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using one of its Falcon 9 rockets. It will be the second manned launch by the company. Only the first stages of Falcon 9 rockets are reusable. After launch, they return to land either on offshore landing barges, or landing pads near their launch sites.