Though it ended in a fiery explosion, Starship's latest test flight was deemed a success.
SpaceX launched the 165-foot-tall prototype, dubbed SN8, Wednesday in South Texas, where it soared to a height of nearly 8 miles. The test marked a major milestone for the aerospace manufacturer, as it was the highest test flight yet. It also managed to complete a number of key objectives, as pointed out by SpaceX founder Elon Musk:
Successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point! https://t.co/IIraiESg5M— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2020
However, CNN reports that all three of the rocket's engines shut off shortly after liftoff, and reignited right before the spacecraft approached its landing target. The impact was much harder than anticipated, and caused a giant explosion that engulfed the uncrewed SN8. Prior to the test, Musk cautioned that a "lot of things [needed] to go right" during the flight, and gave it only a one-third chance of success. But he was clearly pleased with the outcome.
SpaceX has already built the SN9 prototype, which is expected to make a similar test flight very soon. Musk said one of his goals for Starship was to launch as many as 100 humans at a time to the moon or Mars. He's repeatedly expressed confidence that this will be achieved sometime within the next six years..
Mars, here we come!!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 9, 2020
You can check out the SN8 flight test above.