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SpaceX Rocket Prototype Crash Lands During Test

The SpaceX launches Starship SN9 for a test flight from its facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, U.S. Feb. 2, 2021.

The test launch and landing of a SpaceX Starship prototype Tuesday ended in a crash for the second time since December.

The bullet-shaped 50-meter-tall SN-9 Starship rocket, a product of entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private space company, lifted off as planned from the southern Texas launch site and traveled 10 kilometers into the sky before making its descent for a planned soft landing back on the launch pad.

The spacecraft failed to return to a vertical position before reaching the ground and exploded on impact. The December test flight ended the same way. The next SpaceX prototype, the SN-10, stood on a launch pad near the crash site but was apparently undamaged. The company did not say when that test launch will be scheduled.

The Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement that it would investigate Tuesday's explosion, fueling tension between the agency and Musk.

The FAA had investigated last year’s launch, saying it did not meet public safety standards, but approved Tuesday's test after what it called "corrective actions."

The Starship is intended to carry people to the moon and Mars, perhaps in the coming years.