SpaceX Starship explosion marks massive leap towards Mars exploration 'Hugely successful'

Propelled by three Raptor engines, the rocket then flipped to its side and plummetted to the ground in free fall – a manoeuvre dubbed “the belly flop”.

Just before SN8 reached the ground, it flipped upright again and fired its engines in a bid to decelerate enough for a smooth landing.

Instead, the rocket failed to slow down enough and went up in a ball of flames.

At first glance, it might appear as though the explosive crash landing will throw a spanner in the works for the Starship programme.

But according to Dr Hugh Grant, a reader in Engineering Dynamics and Vibration at the University of Cambridge, the explosion was anything but a disaster.