SpaceX's latest test flight for its Starship spacecraft ended in a massive fireball explosion after the unmanned prototype failed to land safely.
Starship SN8 was launched on Wednesday in Cameron County, Texas, and traveled more than six minutes and 40 seconds before crashing during its final touchdown.
The suborbital flight was designed to test how well the spacecraft's three Raptor engines perform, its overall aerodynamic entry capabilities and how the vehicle manages propellant transition, according to the SpaceX.
The test flight also included Starship SN8 performing a landing flip maneuver — the first for a vehicle of its size.
"With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship," SpaceX said on its website.
As seen on a livestream of the test flight, Starship SN8 — which was aiming for an altitude of up to eight miles — launched and soared in the air for more than four minutes before flipping to the side as part of its landing maneuver.
The spacecraft then descended horizontally before turning upright. However, upon its final approach toward the landing point, the vehicle burst into flames.
Despite the crash, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk considered the test flight to be a success.
"Successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point!" he tweeted. "Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!"
Earlier this week, Musk predicted that the Starship SN8 had a "1/3 chance of completing all mission objectives."
According to the SpaceX website, the company's Starship spacecrafts are designed "to be a fully reusable transportation system capable of carrying both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond."
SpaceX has built 10 Starship prototypes, with SN9 "almost ready to move to the pad," the website reads.
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