Despite the unfortunate conclusion to this latest test flight, Starship serial number 10, or SN10, represents another gradual improvement over its predecessors, SN8 and SN9, both of which failed to nail the landing. SN8 cleared a hurdle of its own when the prototype reached a height of nearly eight miles, while also checking off a few other technical achievements. While the test ended with the rocket going up in flames upon landing, Musk saw the run as a success.
Similarly, SN9 flew over six miles in the air, but crashed onto the landing pad and blew up.
SN10 successfully reached its height goal of over six miles, and executed a “belly flop” where the rocket descends in free fall before the engines turn back on, returning it to a vertical position for the landing, albeit a far from perfect one.
Musk took to Twitter to celebrate the successful conclusion of the test flight.
There has been some suspicion that a rough landing, combined with what some observers believe to be a methane leak caused the SN10 to unexpectedly soar back into the sky 10 minutes after touching down. SpaceX has yet to address the incident.