Inside SpaceX’s successes and failures – from huge explosions to putting men in space

It has been 11 years since Elon Musk’s SpaceX completed its first successful rocket test flight, so it’s worth taking a look at some of the biggest successes and failures that have followed since.

Arguably the company’s biggest win came when it launched two astronauts into space in May 2020, making it the first time astronauts had flown into orbit on board a rocket built by a private company.

Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley also became the first astronauts in a decade to blast off into space from US soil, as they spent 19 hours in orbit before docking with the International Space Station (ISS), roughly 250 miles above the Earth.



SpaceX became the first privately funded company to launch astronauts into space

Another successful launch saw SpaceX beat the world record for the number of satellites sent to space on a single rocket.

In January this year, the company sent 143 satellites into space on board its Falcon rocket, beating the previous record by 39 – held by an Indian spacecraft since 2017.

SpaceX has also seen some pretty significant failures revolving around explosions, particularly in the last two years.



Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley became the first astronauts in a decade to blast off into space from US soil
Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley became the first astronauts in a decade to blast off into space from US soil

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In February 2020, the Starship SN1 burst apart during a pressure test at its launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas, USA, while undergoing a liquid nitrogen pressure test.

The midsection of the prototype buckled, then shot upwards before smashing into the ground.

Just three months later in May, the Starship SN4 had a fiery explosion very soon after a rocket engine test.



Space X's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off carrying its Dragon CRS3 spacecraft on a resupply mission to the ISS
Space X’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off carrying its Dragon CRS3 spacecraft on a resupply mission to the ISS

The dramatic failure happened only a minute after a short test of its Raptor rocket engine, but immediately after the explosion it was unclear what caused the conflagration.

Then in December 2020, the Starship SN8 rocket crashed and exploded in a huge fireball after it narrowly missed its landing pad.

Dramatic footage showed the unmanned rocket blowing up as it smashed into the ground after having soared to 40,000ft – where it managed to collect significant data.



The Starship SN8 rocket crashed and exploded in a huge fireball after it narrowly missed its landing pad
The Starship SN8 rocket crashed and exploded in a huge fireball after it narrowly missed its landing pad

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March this year saw the Starship SN10 prototype rocket also burst into flames, exploding just a few minutes after successfully landing on a concrete pad.

The rocket stood upright on the ground for about 10 minutes before suddenly bursting up with its tail in flames due to a possible methane leak.

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