Update: The SpaceX rocket explosion video is now embedded below, and we've updated this news story to include both quotes both SpaceX and tweets from Elon Musk.
The SpaceX Starship SN8 high-altitude flight test was a success during the first few minutes of the liftoff live stream, but it couldn't stick the landing, exploding in spectacular fashion upon impact with the landing site.
You can watch the fiery SpaceX Starship explosion video below. The rocket begins its ultimate descent five minutes after liftoff (if you want to fast-forward). In between and also right at the end, you can observe a green flame coming from the engines.
The suborbital flight of this prototype rocket was designed to test a number of objectives, including how the three Raptor engines performed, aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle (including the body flaps) and how it managed propellant transition, according to SpaceX. It wasn't bound for space or carrying a valuable payload.
Even before the twice-delayed liftoff on Wednesday, December 9, SpaceX noted that Starship SN8 would "attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size." SpaceX founder Elon Musk gave the entire test flight a 1 in 3 chance of fully succeeding.
SpaceX also mentioned in the description of the live stream liftoff video that "a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn as a whole." This was written before the explosion.
It went on to say that today's Starship test "will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship." Musk, in a post-launch and explosion tweet went on to back up this tone, saying the data meant to be collected was indeed a success.
Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD, but we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!December 9, 2020
Cue SpaceX Starship SN9.
Update: Musk followed up his tweet, confirming that the Starship 'SN8 did great' despite the fiery explosion upon its landing attempt.
SN8 did great! Even reaching apogee would’ve been great, so controlling all way to putting the crater in the right spot was epic!!December 10, 2020