SpaceX Starship launch ends in explosive landing - but is hailed a success by Elon Musk

The SpaceX rocket taking off.
  • By ITV News Washington Producer Sophie Alexander

An experimental SpaceX rocket made an explosive landing after soaring over eight miles above Texas.Despite the dramatic touchdown the mission was seen as a success by Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of SpaceX, who tweeted: "Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!"The test flight of the unmanned Starship SN8 spacecraft was the most successful to date, reaching over 40,000 feet above the SpaceX development in Cameron County, south Texas, on Wednesday December 9.

Watch the Starship's takeoff - and explosive landing

One of the Starship's engines cut out around two minutes into the flight. The second engine then extinguished leaving just one to propel the rocket upwards.

Finally, the third engine also powered down and the rocket glided into a horizontal position back to Earth.The fireball was caused by the engines reigniting close to the ground, flipping the rocket back into a vertical position and slowing its descent. However, the speed at which the Starship came into land was too great, causing the phenomenal explosion.

Despite the rocket being blown to smithereens on impact, Musk and the SpaceX team viewed the launch as a great success. Earlier on in the week Musk claimed the rocket may achieve its target flight height but not much else.

A statement on the SpaceX website said the Starship had "successfully ascended, transitioned propellant, and performed its landing flip manoeuvre with precise flap control to reach its landing point".

The statement added: "Low pressure in the fuel header tank during the landing burn led to high touchdown velocity resulting in a hard (and exciting!) landing."Musk has grandiose interplanetary ambitions and ultimately wants to build a colony on Mars.In the meantime, SpaceX hopes to propel satellites into the Earth's orbit and shuttle people between cities at extraordinary speeds.Last month the aerospace company sent four astronauts to the International Space Station onboard the Dragon Resilience, the first ever commercial flight to send humans into orbit. 

A second SpaceX capsule joined the Resilience at the ISS this week, loaded with nearly 3000kgs of equipment and all-important Christmas gifts and dinner for the astronauts. Musk, who also owns Tesla, also revealed this week he has moved to Texas from California, after openly criticising Silicon Valley's treatment of innovators.A move to Texas also holds personal benefits for Musk, the world's second richest man, as the state does not collect state income or capital gains tax for individuals.