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SpaceX SN8 crash landed after performing the first major flight test, reaching a height of 12.5km.
After some delays, the Prototype Spacecraft SN8 was launched at 1645 local time [2245 GMT], from a remote corner of Texas on Wednesday.
Around two minutes after lift-off, the base of the craft appeared to catch on fire, though this soon went out.
After reaching its target altitude in 6 1/2-minute test flight, the Starship SN8 then attempted to perform a complicated flip landing manoeuvre, whereby it essentially belly flops to Earth.
But despite its “successful ascent”, the craft burst into a massive fireball on landing.
The 16-storey high prototype for a heavy-lift launch vehicle being developed by Mr Musk’s space company that plans to carry humans and 100 tonnes of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars.
mmediately after the fiery landing, Mr Musk tweeted that the rocket’s “fuel header tank pressure was low” during the descent, “causing touchdown velocity to be high”.
Later, he followed up a tweet “Mars, here we come!!”