At 2:25 PM EST SpaceX's Starship SN9 successfully lifted off from Boca Chica base and soared about 6.2 miles (10 km). After that, it flipped, descended and unexpectedly crashed on landing. It was live-streamed on YouTube.
Though SpaceX principal integration engineer John Insprucker emphasized that the company obtained "a lot of good data," and it achieved its "primary objective" during the SN9 mission webcast, much of the online reaction following the mission was, understandably, focused on the SN9 Starship prototype's explosive landing.
While SpaceX is yet to finish conducting a thorough investigation into the failed landing, the company updated its website with the following:
"During the landing flip maneuver, one of the Raptor engines did not relight and caused SN9 to land at high speed and experience a RUD."
RUD is a rather humorously euphemistic acronym used by SpaceX that stands for "Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly." In other words, SN9, or part of it, exploded.
Watch the debris leaving the engine, probably not all the thrust going out the nozzle. pic.twitter.com/xbEgR17fsa— Scott Manley (@DJSnM) February 2, 2021
Self-described internet rocket scientist Scott Manley tweeted several slow-motion clips of SN9 moments before its 'hard landing.'
Starship program continues at a roaring pace
SpaceX's previous Starship prototype SN8 also experienced an explosive incident on landing, though that was due to low pressure in a propellant tank, causing the spaceship to descend too quickly, hit a concrete pad, and explode.
Despite the 'RUD' occurring near the Starship SN10, the SN9 explosion didn't appear to cause any damage to the nearby vehicle.
Though it is not yet known when the SN10 test flight will take place, the prototype is "expected to begin prelaunch testing soon," according to a post-crash report from Space.com.
As an indicator of SpaceX's relentless schedule, the SN8 and SN9 launches were scheduled less than two months apart, on Dec. 8 and Feb. 2 respectively.
Musk has stated that he is "highly confident" SpaceX will have humans on Mars by 2026. As Insprucker mentioned on SpaceX's SN9 webcast, they will have to "work on that landing a little bit" before they get there.