It was the fourth full-size stainless steel model to be launched since December at an altitude of over six miles.
The previous three exploded on touchdown or shortly thereafter.
According to SpaceX founder Elon Musk, “something big happened shortly after the burn landing”, but it wasn’t immediately clear what that “something big” really was. apart from an explosion of debris strewn up to five miles from the landing site.
Heavy fog obscured most views of the attempted landing sequence from the ground.
Video from a board camera cut nearly six minutes after the start of the flight before pieces of the spacecraft and the sounds of small explosions began to rain down at the launch site.
“Should know what it was once we can review the tracks later today,” Musk added.
The company is currently going through prototypes of its Starship spacecraft at a fairly rapid pace. His last test of the SN10 model took place in early March and did indeed land successfully. before exploding a few minutes later.
But the speed at which the company is building and testing the spacecraft suggests that it won’t be completely deterred by failure.
Tuesday’s test of the rocket, SN11, saw the spacecraft climb to an altitude of 10 km (6.2 miles) before descending to land – although it appeared to explode before descending.
Starship is being developed by billionaire entrepreneur Musk’s private space company to transport humans and 100 tonnes of cargo on future missions to the Moon and Mars.
Starship, the spacecraft itself and the launcher called Super Heavy, were unveiled on the company’s premises in Boca Chica, Texas in September 2019.
Starship is designed to carry crew and cargo “to the Moon, Mars, or anywhere else in the solar system” and land on Earth perpendicular rather than horizontally, Musk said.