SpaceX has launched another of its Starship prototypes. It crashed again. The uncrewed vehicle, codenamed SN9, climbed to 10km (6 miles) above the Texas Gulf coast, and then descended to try to put down under control a short distance from where it had lifted off. It slammed into the landing pad in flames. “We’ve just got to work on that landing a little bit,” said SpaceX launch commentator John Insprucker. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk believes that once fully developed, the vehicle will be capable of taking people to the Moon and Mars. In intention, it could also ferry people quickly around the globe. SpaceX’s mantra is different: it is to learn by flying, to iterate and then to fly again.
The vehicle is supposed to transition back to a tail-down configuration just before reaching the surface, re-igniting two Raptor engines to slow the fall to a walking pace at landing. This time, however, it appeared that SN9 only managed to light one engine properly. Further prototypes are at various stages of assembly. Mr Musk has stated that Starship is now the number-one priority for SpaceX.