SpaceX Finally Landed A Rocket, And Then It Exploded

SpaceX launched a rocket into the atmosphere and even landed it successfully. But just when they thought all was good, it exploded.

By Doug Norrie | Updated

This article is more than 2 years old


SpaceX continues to push further and further into the great unknown, creating groundbreaking new technology that’s sped along the race into well, space. That they’ve done it as a private company, essentially competing and also complimenting NASA is even more impressive. But it hasn’t all been perfect along the way. With any great new innovation comes some downside or even worse. Such is the price for scientific discovery. And that’s the case with the most recent SpaceX loss which had some groundbreaking moments but then ended with a bang, it exploded

The SpaceX Falcon 9 was on a mission, so to speak, to launch a number of Starlink satellites into the atmosphere. Part of the company’s core goal of developing reusable rockets means being able to land the crafts back safely after a launch. That was very much the case with this latest rocket. The Falcon 9 SN10 model lifted off into the atmosphere and, as planned, performed a flip into a horizontal position to begin its descent back to Earth. Check out the whole feed of the launch, flip, and landing on SpaceX’s feed:

Once in the horizontal position, the plan for SpaceX is to have the rockets fire again bringing it back to vertical, but this time in the opposite position. This allows the rocket to land safely back on the launchpad to be used again at a later date. Again, this also worked with the rocket and the company declared the mission a success. But a few minutes later the SN10 unexpectedly jumped off the platform propelled by an explosion that ended up destroying the entire thing in a burst of flames. Check it out after the rocket lands and sits there for a few moments.

SpaceX believes this explosion may have been caused by a leak in the fuel propellant tanks but that hasn’t been confirmed. In fact, the explosion happened so long after the launch that the company had actually turned off its video feed for the proceedings thinking the mission was complete. So this development was definitely a surprise. 

This explosion for SpaceX comes on the heels of its launch last month that also went a bit sideways, so to speak. In that one, the SN9 rocket also successfully launched into orbit and began its descent. But this time, the flipping maneuver went haywire. As the rocket approached the landing pad, it began its flip but wasn’t able to rotate fully over. This caused it to stick in the horizontal position and land in a bellyflop position instead. For all you non-rocket scientists out there, this is bad. The SN9 exploded immediately. 

In all, SpaceX appears rather unphased by all of these developments. While exploding rockets isn’t the ultimate goal, it does appear they at least understand that it comes with the territory. Creating and innovating along these lines is going to present its fair share of challenges. The operating goal for the company remains the plan to send humans to Mars in just the next few years. Considering a rover just got there, that does feel more than a little bullish. And if rockets keep exploding maybe the timeline is pushed back some. But there’s no doubt the company is dreaming big and pushing space innovation forward.