The SpaceX rocket detonation occurred over McGregor, Texas, where SpaceX has been testing reusable rocket technology using its prototype Falcon 9 Reusable (or F9R) vehicle. One observer video shows debris falling from the sky just after the explosion.
"During the flight, an anomaly was detected in the vehicle and the flight termination system automatically terminated the mission," SpaceX representatives said in a statement. "Throughout the test and subsequent flight termination, the vehicle remained in the designated flight area. There were no injuries or near injuries. An FAA representative was present at all times." [SpaceX's Amazing F9R Reusable Rocket in Photos]
On Friday, SpaceX was testing a three-engine version of the F9R rocket when the incident occurred. The vehicle, which is the successor to SpaceX's Grasshopper reusable rocket, began single-engine test flights earlier this year.
"Three engine F9R Dev1 vehicle auto-terminated during test flight," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter. "No injuries or near injuries. Rockets are tricky ..."
The F9R test vehicle is based on SpaceX's operational Falcon 9 rocket, which has a nine-engine first stage. SpaceX has also been performing reusability tests with the Falcon 9 rocket first stage by returning the boosters to Earth after satellite and spacecraft launches.
In their statement, SpaceX representatives said that finding anomalies with innovative new technology is the whole point of testing.
"With research and development projects, detecting vehicle anomalies during the testing is the purpose of the program," SpaceX representatives wrote. "Today's test was particularly complex, pushing the limits of the vehicle further than any previous test."
SpaceX engineers will review Friday's F9R rocket test in detail to understand what occurred before attempting its next reusable test in Texas. The company will provide more updates once that analysis is complete.
Reusable rockets have long been a goal for the California-based SpaceX and for its billionaire CEO Elon Musk, who has said the technology could lower the cost of space launches by a factor of 100.
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