SpaceX launched the largest and most powerful rockets ever built in a landmark launch test, but it exploded minutes later.
Starship, a three-day-old aircraft that was originally scheduled to fly but cancelled due to a glitch at the last minute, took off in Boca Chica on the southern Texas coast.
Live updates on the landmark SpaceX launch
The rocket system did not separate as planned and exploded after less than four minutes of flight.
SpaceX claimed that Starship underwent a “rapid and unscheduled deassembly prior to stage separation”.
SpaceX officials declared the ambitious mission as a success. It was the first time Starship with its massive booster rocket took to the sky.
Elon Musk , the CEO of the company, congratulated his team for an “exciting” test launch.
Musk tried to temper expectations by saying that it would be 50% likely to reach orbit on the first attempt.
He believes that there is a 80% success rate before the end the year.
Musk tweeted that he had “learned a great deal for the next test launch coming up in a couple of months.”
Starship launches a major leap forward despite explosive ending
SpaceX was not expecting Starship to fly 39km in the air, but it was certainly surprised when the upper stage failed to separate from the Super Heavy booster.
It was the first flight of the Super Heavy booster. The success of this mission was to clear the launchpad before launch.
It did that and more. It passed max Q about 55 seconds into its flight. This is the point at which the forces on the spacecraft were the greatest before it entered the upper atmosphere, which was less dense.
This is a significant validation of the design and construction of this rocket.
Starship’s explosion was met with cheers instead of tears. Or, as SpaceX put it, “rapid and unscheduled disassembly”.
Elon Musk, SpaceX’s boss, was in the launch control room. He didn’t seem too happy when Starship failed separation.
He will also know that today’s event was a significant step in his quest to build a large enough rocket to take humans to the Moon and Mars one day.
With the successful launch, we have witnessed a historic moment in the history of space.
Musk himself once said, “If you don’t fail, then you’re not innovating.”
SpaceX rockets set new records
Starship consists of two stages: a Super Heavy booster which generates enough power to reach orbit and a spacecraft that will one day return humans to the moon, and then Mars.
The combined height of the craft, booster and 33 rocket engines is 120m.
The test on Thursday was expected to see the spacecraft separate from its booster and complete an orbit around the Earth.
What could have been…
Starship, if it was a complete success, would have completed an orbit around the Earth before splashing down in the Pacific.
The prototype booster 7 would have been thrown into the Gulf of Mexico.
The entire flight would have taken approximately 90 minutes.
Starship was launched on Thursday without any cargo, much less people.
Musk hopes Starship can eventually be used to launch satellites into orbit and to take humans to Mars and the Moon.
NASA has committed to using it by 2025 to return astronauts to the surface of the moon via its Artemis program.
Starship’s orbital test is the first after US flight regulator SpaceX was granted a five-year license, stating that it met all safety requirements and environmental standards.