The SN11, SpaceX’s latest rocket prototype, ended its high-altitude flight test with an explosion on March 30 like its three predecessors, business mogul Elon Musk has announced.
On Twitter Monday, the SpaceX founder blamed the explosion on a fuel leak.
“Ascent phase, transition to horizontal & control during free fall were good. A (relatively) small CH4 leak led to fire on engine 2 & fried part of avionics, causing hard start attempting landing burn in CH4 turbopump,” he wrote, adding: “This is getting fixed 6 ways to Sunday.”
The SN11 was launched last week despite bad weather conditions from SpaceX’s Starbase in the US state of Texas.
The vehicle was powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) in altitude.
“SN11 performed a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent,” SpaceX said in a statement, adding that shortly after the landing burn started, the SN11 “experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly.”
This was the fourth such test flight.
The prototype’s predecessors, SN8, SN9 and SN10, which flew on Dec. 9, 2020, Feb. 2, and March 3 of this year, respectively, exploded after touching down.
SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft is meant to act as a reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond, according to the company.
Founded in 2002, SpaceX aims to revolutionize space technology with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets, according to its website.