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Elon Musk's SpaceX Mars rocket explodes during test flight

March 30, 2021

The tech entrepreneur believes his Starship rocket will land on Mars "well before 2030." Tuesday's test was the fourth failure for the S11 prototype.

USA SpaceX-Starship Test Boca Chica Texas
Elon Musk hopes to land Starships on Mask before 2030Image: Gene Blevins/REUTERS

US tech entrepreneur Elon Musk's SpaceX saw another failed landing on Tuesday as its Mars rocket Starship broke apart before touchdown.

It is the fourth failed test of the S11 prototype, that the company hopes will one day be able to fly crewed missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

What happened this time?

Previous launch attempts on Friday and Monday were ditched — the first due to technical issues, the second as a result of an absent Federal Aviation Adminstration inspector.

Starship finally blasted off from SpaceX's south Texas facility on Tuesday morning local time.

A camera on the rocket froze not quite six minutes into the test flight, while video footage showed debris raining down and explosions could be heard.

Poor weather conditions made it unclear initially what had happened to the prototype.

Elon Musk | CEO | SpaceX abd Tesla
It is the fourth attempt Musk has made with the latest prototypeImage: Suzanne Cordeiro/TNS/abaca/picture alliance

How has Musk responded?

Confirming the failed flight on Twitter, Musk wrote "at least the crater is in the right place!"

The South-African born businessman also pointed to possible problems that caused the rocket to fail.

He's named the launch and landing area at the southeastern tip of Texas, near the Mexico border, Starbase.

SpaceX plans to use Starship to send astronauts and cargo to the moon and, ultimately, to Mars.

What will the final mission look like?

Musk said earlier this month the first Starships would land on Mars "well before 2030." 

The company wants to combine the Starship spaceship with a Super Heavy rocket, creating a fully reusable system.

This final version will stand 394 feet (120 meters) tall and will be able to carry 100 metric tons into Earth orbit; it has been described as the most powerful launch vehicle ever developed.

Illustration SpaceX-Raumschiff von Elon Musk
An artist's impression of the SpaceX Starship on MarsImage: picture-alliance/Newscom/SpaceX

jf/msh (AP, AFP)