SpaceX's Starship hits high altitude, explodes in fireball on return

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"Mars, here we come!", Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday afternoon - just a few hours after the test flight of his SpaceX Starship prototype took off into the Texas sky, only to fall down creating a spectacular & grand explosion when attempting to land. As reported by The Guardian, the spacecraft was taking part in a test flight that meant to send the Starship rocket to 12,500 metres in altitude using, for the first time, three of SpaceX's latest Raptor engines.

The almost seven-minute flight Wednesday was stable until the landing attempt when the Starship failed to slow down enough, video images provided by SpaceX showed.

Less than two minutes into the flight, one of the three Raptor engines powered down. The different complex processes in flying the SN8 were all a success, including the header tanks switch and flap control of the Starship.

It was the most elaborate outing yet for the spacecraft that tycoon Musk says could carry people to Mars in as little as six years.

As the Starship approaches the ground, the rocket would ignite its engines and the vehicle would swoop back to an upright position just before touchdown.

The event was live-streamed on SpaceX's Youtube channel. Thus, with Starship SN8 suffering low pressure from the header tank, there was no way for the engines to get enough fuel.

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While it doesn't look like multiplanetary transportation will be a reality for us mere mortals anytime soon, we'll be keeping our fingers crossed that one day, we'll all have the chance to get a real glimpse of space. People in the industry were also skeptical when NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to fly astronauts to the International Space Station, saying human spaceflight should never be outsourced to the private sector and to a company as unproven as SpaceX.

The company has made steady progress over the past year on Starship prototypes at its factory in Boca Chica, Texas.

Starship is actually the upper stage of Musk's envisioned moon- and Mars-ships. The entire vehicle will tower 394 feet (120 meters) - 31 feet (9.4 meters) taller than NASA's Saturn V rocket that hurled men to the moon a half-century ago.

The stainless steel Starship is created to be a versatile, fully reusable craft that can carry 100 metric tons for deep space missions to the moon and Mars but also serve as a hypersonic, point-to-point vehicle to reduce travel times across Earth. Starship will be the world's most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, with the ability to carry in excess of 100 metric tonnes to Earth orbit.

Right before Wednesday's launch, NASA announced the 18 USA astronauts who will train for the Artemis moon-landing program. Musk has said he'd like the vehicle to make it to orbit by next year. But Musk is the first to admit his timelines can be overly optimistic.

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