A reusable rocket prototype built by the private spaceflight company SpaceX exploded over the firm's Texas proving grounds Friday (Aug. 22) after an anomaly forced the destruction of the craft.
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.
Editor's note:If you captured photos or video of SpaceX's F9R test on Friday, or any of the company's successful F9R or Grasshopper flights, and would like to share them with Space.com, you can send video and comments in to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.