SpaceX Starship explodes whilst attempting to land during test

SpaceX’s latest iteration of the Starship spacecraft has just completed a critical pre-flight wet rehearsal. Wednesday’s (January 13) static fire tests marked the second, third and fourth time the rocket has fired its powerful engines while tethered to the ground. The first engine test was completed on January 6, when the three Raptors were fired for the very first time.

Static fire tests, when the rocket remains tethered to the ground, are part and parcel of the pre-flight routines that lead to a rocket launch.

In this case, the Starship SN9 model is being prepped for a suborbital flight of about 7.8 miles (12.5km).

SpaceX chief Elon Musk, 49, took to Twitter last night to announced the news.

He tweeted: “Today at SpaceX is about practising Starship engine starts. Ship is held down by massive pins while engines are fired. Two starts completed, about to try a third.”

Mr Musk then followed up with: “All three static fires completed and no RUDs!”

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RUD or rapid unscheduled disassembly means the rocket did not blow up on the company’s Boca Chica launchpad in South Texas.

With the wet rehearsals out of the way, SpaceX fans are now hoping the Starship launch could be imminent.

Fans have been kept on the edge of their seats all week, looking out for updates on the SN9’s first test flight.

The launch will be similar to that of the previous model, the SN8, although this time SpaceX is hoping to stick the landing.

The SN8 flew to a height of about 7.8 miles (12.5km) after which it flopped to its side and dropped to the ground belly-side down.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/swL4xrmmLCk

The so-called bellyflop manoeuvre tested the spacecraft’s ability to slow down in the atmosphere without the use of propellant.

SpaceX wants to pull off the exact same move when the Starship launches on its first trip to Mars.

Unfortunately, the rocket failed to touch down on the launchpad and erupted into a ball of flames.

The launch was still considered a massive success for SpaceX as the data collected during the flight will help improve future launches.

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After the SN9 earns its wings, the next Starship model in line is the SN10.

But before that happens, SpaceX will need to complete a Launch Readiness Review or LRR.

Hopes are high, however, the launch could still go ahead before the week is over as no flight restrictions have been issued for the airspace around Boca Chica.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has a note to airmen or NOTAM in effect for January 15 and 16, citing “space operations” in the area.

Follow Express.co.uk for the latest news on SpaceX’s Starship launch.

One SpaceX fan tweeted last night: “@elonmusk flight tomorrow? Will SpaceX have live coverage of the launch again?

“Congrats to you and the starship team on today’s tests, absolutely awesome!”

Another person said: “Absolutely amazing! You’re knocking out the rockets while I’m trying to keep the coffee warm in my ember mug. The struggle is real 🙂

“Keep up that Top Notch work. We are all counting on it and do appreciate it.”

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