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Elon Musk on SpaceX SN11 Mars rocket prototype test: ‘At least the crater is in the right place!’


An experimental rocket that SpaceX launched at its South Texas facilities Tuesday appears to have exploded, but heavy fog at the landing site left even SpaceX uncertain about what had occurred.

“At least the crater is in the right place!” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.

All three of SpaceX’s previous prototypes crash landed or exploded shortly after landing.

SpaceX engineer John Insprucker, who hosted a webcast of the test launch, said SN11 had a normal ascent and all appeared to be well before on-board cameras lost signal and the vehicle was subsumed by fog moments before landing. Insprucker said the company will share updates on social media once SpaceX engineers are able to check out the landing site. The area surrounding the vehicle must be cleared before liftoff for safety reasons.

Insprucker said the company is not expecting to recover video footage. “Don’t wait for landing,” he advised webcast viewers.

Independent video streamers that recorded the flight did not capture the last stretch of the flight either due to fog, but NASASpaceflight — a media site — reported that one of the news outlet’s cameras may have been struck by debris from the rocket. Footage of the launch pad showed SN11 was nowhere in sight after the rocket’s descent.

SN11 is an early iteration of Starship, the vehicle that Musk envisions will one day carry the first humans to Mars. It’s also the fourth prototype that SpaceX has launched on a high-altitude test flight as the company works to hash out how the massive vehicle will safely land upright after returning to Earth.

SN10, the last prototype to fly, landed upright earlier this month but independent footage of the event showed the vehicle exploded about three minutes later.

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