After an excruciating weeklong wait at the launch pad in Boca Chica, SpaceX’s SN9 rocket, the ninth prototype of Starship, finally lifted off for its 10km high-altitude test flight Tuesday afternoon.
The 165-foot-tall (50 meters) stainless steel booster jumped 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) into the South Texas skies and hovered at that altitude for about a minute before slowing descending. Unfortunately, SN9 repeated the fate of its precedent SN8 and exploded on impact during the final seconds of a hard landing.
The SN9 test was originally scheduled for January. But SpaceX had a hard time obtaining the flight authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration due to an unusually long review process and a parallel investigation into the company’s possible violation of flight terms during its last Starship test with SN8 in December.
SN8 was the first Starship prototype SpaceX used for a high-altitude flight. The test went smoothly during liftoff and ascend and successfully reached an altitude of about 7.8 miles (12.5 km) before it descended too fast and exploded upon landing.