SpaceX Starship explodes during landing minutes after successful test launch

The latest Starship prototype serial number 8, a shiny silver vehicle known as SN8, launched on an epic high-altitude test flight, taking off at 5:45 p.m. EST (2245 GMT) from SpaceX's facility near the South Texas village of Boca Chica.

Image credit: SpaceX

Starship serial number 8 (SN8) lifted off from our Cameron County launch pad and successfully ascended, transitioned propellant, and performed its landing flip maneuver with precise flap control to reach its landing point. Low pressure in the fuel header tank during the landing burn led to high touchdown velocity resulting in a hard (and exciting!) landing.

Thank you to all the locals supporting our efforts in Cameron County and beyond. Congratulations to the entire Starship and SpaceX teams on today’s test! Serial number 9 (SN9) is up next – Mars, here we come!"

Image credit: SpaceX

The goal was to soar about 7.8 miles (12.5 kilometers) into the sky, perform some complex aerial maneuvers — including a "belly flop" like the one the final Starship will perform when coming back to Earth on operational flights — and then land safely near the launch stand.

The 165-foot-tall (50 meters) SN8 appeared to notch all of these big milestones, except for the final one: The vehicle hit its landing mark but came in too fast, exploding in a dramatic fireball 6 minutes and 42 seconds after liftoff.