Never two without three?
A prototype of SpaceX's future giant Starship rocket, two of which had crashed into huge fireballs on landing, this time managed to land in one piece on Wednesday in Texas ... before explode on the ground a few minutes later.
"Starship SN10 has landed in one piece!" Responded in a tweet, an hour after the explosion, SpaceX founder Elon Musk.
"The SpaceX team is doing a great job! One day the real measure of success will be that Starship flights have become commonplace," the whimsical billionaire added in a second tweet.
"A wonderful soft landing," SpaceX commentator John Insprucker first announced in the video broadcasting the test flight live.
Flames were however visible at the foot of the rocket, being extinguished by the teams on site.
And a few minutes later, a huge explosion threw the craft into the air, which shattered as it fell to the ground.
No explanation was immediately provided.
This vehicle is set to become the rocket of choice for SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, to one day go to Mars.
The prototype, named SN10, for "Serial Number 10", took off a little before 11:20 GMT from Boca Chica, Texas, for a third suborbital test.
The machine climbed into the sky, propelled by three engines which turned off one after the other, and the vehicle overturned to place itself in a horizontal position.
He reached 10 kilometers in altitude, the goal set for this flight, before starting his descent.
The rocket then returned to a vertical position, managing to land, at first glance without incident, at the desired location.
- Towards the moon?
Two other prototypes (SN8 and SN9) had crashed at the time of landing, in December, then in early February.
These tests are taking place in a near-deserted area leased by SpaceX, in the far south of Texas, near the border with Mexico and on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico - an area empty enough for an accident or explosion. does not cause damage or cause victims.
Elon Musk imagines one day launching several of these vessels to conquer Mars.
But initially, the rocket, if it became operational, could prove useful for closer trips, especially to the Moon.
It is in this vehicle that the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is supposed to go around the moon, in theory in 2023, a trip at the confidential price.
In a video posted to his Twitter account Wednesday, he invited eight people "from all over the world" to join him.
Aspiring astronauts must pre-register by March 14, and a first selection must be made a week later.
The future rocket will consist, in addition to the manned spaceship, of a first stage called Super Heavy.
The whole will measure 120 meters in height and will be able to carry 100 tons on board.
© 2021 AFP