Another SpaceX Starship, the SN9, explodes in spectacular fireball

SpaceX's Starship SN9 successfully launched in the US on Tuesday (local time) before exploding on impact as it attempted to land.

The prototype rocket of billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's company suffered a very similar fate to the SN8, which also exploded in a spectacular fireball in December - but was hailed a success.

"Successful ascent, switchover to header tanks & precise flap control to landing point!" Musk tweeted at the time. 

The SN9 test involved attempting to fly it to an altitude of around 10km before angling for a simulated re-entry into Earth's atmosphere and then descending for a controlled landing.

The self-guided, 16-storey-tall rocket soared into the Texas sky from its launch pad on what appeared to be a flawless liftoff that was livestreamed on the SpaceX YouTube account.

"We had, again, another great flight up... we've just got to work on that landing a little bit," principal integration engineer John Insprucker said during the broadcast.

It's hoped that the Starship prototypes will be developed enough to launch as many as 100 people at a time on trips into space.

"A controlled aerodynamic descent with body flaps and vertical landing capability, combined with in-space refilling, are critical to landing Starship at destinations across the solar system where prepared surfaces or runways do not exist, and returning to Earth," says SpaceX.

"This capability will enable a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration, interplanetary flights and help humanity return to the moon, and travel to Mars and beyond."

Musk has not tweeted about the SN9 explosion. Hours before its launch, he tweeted: "Off Twitter for a while."