Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Wednesday launched a prototype of its next-generation Starship rocket - landing it safely only to have it burst into flames minutes later, reports said Thursday.
SN10 was launched from Boca Chica, Texas, and was the first successful landing for the Starship prototype - unlike its predecessors SN8 and SN9 which crashed in February.
SN10 climbed more than 6 miles after liftoff, descended horizontally and then flipped upright to land.
SpaceX engineer and commentator John Insprucker was so elated with the touchdown that he declared "third time's a charm as the saying goes" - before the space company terminated its webcast of the test.
And then, SN10 exploded.
It was unclear what caused the rocket to blow up after landing.
A launch attempt earlier in the day was aborted after a brief engine fire.
In a tweet, SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk said the abort was triggered by pre-set protocols around the rocket's thrust, which he described as "conservative."
Insprucker said SpaceX had many other prototypes on the assembly line and the next, SN11, will roll out for another test flight "in the near future."
The space exploration company should be even more motivated by the test and the fact that SN10 performed its in-flight maneuvers according to plan and managed to make a landing.
SpaceX plans to use Starship for a variety of missions, including carrying paying customers between cities at dizzying speeds, potentially working with NASA's moon landing program and, eventually, bringing humans to Mars.