SpaceX’s Starship SN10 Flies, Lands, Takes Off Again and Explodes

It is said that any landing you can walk away from is a good one. But, if there had been anyone aboard SpaceX’s Starlink SN10 rocket ton Wednesday, they would have had to run away. Even then, they might not have made it.

SpaceX successfully landing the SN10 vehicle on Wednesday after a 10 km (6.2 mile) hop from the company’s test site in Boca Chica, Texas. It was a historic first for the flight test program, which had previously seen crashes with spectacular explosions.

However, SN10 was leaning to one side. A short time after landing, the vehicle took off on again as flames burned around it. The giant booster keeled over on its side in mid-air and then crashed back to Earth in a fiery explosion, looking a bit like the Hindenburg at Lakehurst.

SN10 was the first of the booster to use all of its three Raptor engines as it pitched over to attempt a landing. Two of the engines were shut down after SN10 achieved a stable flight, and the test vehicle landed on one engine.

The way SN10 leaned to one side after it landed — and a small fire that burned near the bottom of the booster — were signs that not all went according to plan. The rocket then took off unexpectedly, apparently as a result of a methane leak.