Starship SN11 rocket explodes upon landing

(Reuters) -An uncrewed SpaceX Starship prototype rocket failed to land safely on Tuesday after a test launch from Boca Chica, Texas, and engineers were investigating, SpaceX said.

“We do appear to have lost all the data from the vehicle,” SpaceX engineer John Insprucker said in a webcast video of the rocket’s flight test. “We’re going to have to find out from the team what happened.”

The webcast view was obscured by fog, making it difficult to see the vehicle’s landing. Debris from the spacecraft was found scattered five miles (eight km) away from its landing site.

The Starship was one in a series of prototypes for the heavy-lift rocket being developed by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private space company to carry humans and 100 tons of cargo on future missions to the moon and Mars.

The complete Starship rocket, which will stand 394 feet (120 metres) tall with its super-heavy first-stage booster included, is SpaceX’s next-generation fully reusable launch vehicle – the center of Musk’s ambitions to make human space travel more affordable and routine.

A first orbital Starship flight is planned for year’s end. Musk, who also heads the electric carmaker Tesla Inc, has said he intends to fly Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the moon in the Starship in 2023.

Starships SN8 and SN9 previously exploded upon landing during their test runs. SN10 achieved an upright landing earlier this month, but then went up in flames about eight minutes after touchdown.

“Looks like engine 2 had issues on ascent & didn’t reach operating chamber pressure during landing burn, but, in theory, it wasn’t needed,” Musk tweeted on Tuesday, after SN11’s test flight. “Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start. Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today.”

Madrid explosion leaves two dead

At least two people have died following a blast that caused a building to partially collapse in the Spanish capital, Madrid.

An initial assessment suggested a gas leak had caused the explosion, Mayor José Luis Martínez Almeida said.

He told reporters a fire was still raging inside the building, which belongs to the Catholic Church and is in the centre of the city.

At least eight people were injured in the explosion.

An 85-year-old woman and a man were killed in the blast, reports say. One of the injured is in a serious condition and has been taken to hospital, according to officials.

Rescue workers evacuated more than 50 people from a care home next-door to the building in the Puerta de Toledo of Madrid, but a nearby school was closed at the time of the blast.

Four floors of the building were destroyed in the explosion, which could be heard in many areas of the capital. Images shared on social media showed billowing smoke and debris strewn along the street.

Map showing the site of the explosion

Emergency services said nine fire crews and 11 ambulances were at the scene and some of those caught up in the blast were treated on Calle de Toledo, the street where it happened. 

Police officers cleared the area, closing it to all traffic and pedestrians, and appealed to local residents not to come near.

“The noise was very loud, very loud, really,” Lorenzo Fomento, who was working from home at a nearby apartment, told AFP news agency. “I never heard anything so loud before,” he added.

Nashville explosion: Camper van blows up in ‘intentional act’

A parked camper van exploded in the US city of Nashville, Tennessee, early on Christmas morning in what police believe to be a deliberate act.

Officers arrived at the scene shortly after 06:00 (12:00 GMT) on Friday after reports of gunshots.

Police said when they arrived, the van was broadcasting messages warning it would explode. It blew up a bit later.

Flights out of Nashville Airport were halted temporarily because of a telecoms issue linked to the blast. 

The Federal Aviation Administration said service was expected to resume by 15:00 local time.

Three people were injured in the blast, none of them critically, and were taken to hospital, officials said.

Motive unknown

It was not clear whether anyone was inside the vehicle at the time of the explosion, police said. 

The van blew up outside a building owned by the telecoms firm AT&T, which also occupies an office tower nearby.

When police arrived, a message was playing from the van, warning anyone within earshot to leave the area. Officers began evacuating the buildings before the explosion at about 06:30.

The FBI is leading the investigation. Agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are also involved. 

Investigators have not yet determined who was behind the explosion or what the motive was.

Police took a number of people to the central precinct for questioning but declined to give any details, according to the Associated Press (AP). They have released an image of the vehicle arriving at the scene early on Friday.

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Resident Buck McCoy said he was woken up by the blast. He posted a video on Facebook, showing debris and water running down walls,with alarms howling in the background. 

“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there, it would have been horrible,” Mr McCoy told AP. “It felt like a bomb. It was that big.”

Images from the scene showed blown-out windows, damaged buildings and felled trees. The explosion hit an area of Nashville known for its restaurants and nightlife. 

“To this point, we do believe that the explosion was an intentional act,” police spokesman Don Aaron told reporters. 

CCTV footage posted on YouTube appeared to show the moments before the explosion, when a warning was broadcast, saying, “If you can hear this message, evacuate now”. A loud bang follows and flames and smoke fill the screen.

“It looks like a bomb went off,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said, urging people to stay away from the area.

Debris litters the road near the site of an explosion in the area of Second and Commerce in Nashville
image captionThe blast was caused by a parked camper van, police say
Smoke billows from the site of an explosion in the area of Second and Commerce in Nashville
image captionThe explosion hit an area known for its restaurants and nightlife

In a tweet Tennessee Governor Bill Lee pledged to supply “all of the resources needed” to investigate what happened and who was behind it.

President Donald Trump has been briefed on the matter.