SpaceX's Starship rocket lifts off for inaugural test flight, but explodes midair

SpaceX's Starship rocket took off from South Texas but exploded midair before stage separation.

SpaceX's Starship rocket lifts off for inaugural test flight, but explodes midair


SpaceX's Starship rocket, the most powerful ever built, launched from a launchpad on the coast in South Texas at 9:28 am on Thursday. ET, but exploded in midair before separation of stages.

The vehicle made its first ever test flight on Thursday. SpaceX tweeted: 'As though the flight test wasn't exciting enough, Starship experienced an unscheduled rapid disassembly just before stage separation.

The Super Heavy rocket booster with 33 engines lifted off, sending a huge boom along the coast as it ignited. Starship, the spacecraft mounted on top of the booster, flew out over the Gulf of Mexico.

Around two-and-a-half minutes after launch, the Super Heavy booster rocket was to burn through most of its fuel, separate from the Starship, and be dumped in the ocean. The Starship's engines were to be blazing continuously for six minutes to reach orbital speeds.

SpaceX stated that "teams will continue reviewing data and working toward our next test flight."

The test on Thursday ended in an explosive explosion but met many of the objectives set by the company for the vehicle.

Starship achieved a significant milestone by clearing the launch pad. Musk tried to temper expectations in the run-up to Thursday’s liftoff. He said, ‘success should not be expected...That would have been insane.’

SpaceX tweeted that the test was a success because of what it taught them. The test today will improve Starship's durability as SpaceX strives to make space life multi-planetary.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, has been hyping the test flight for years. This comes after a series of explosive tests and regulatory hurdles.

Musk has been talking about Starship for years. He's made elaborate presentations on its design and purpose. NASA plans to use it to send astronauts to the moon. Musk has even stated that the sole reason he founded SpaceX was to create a vehicle similar to Starship, which could be used to establish a human colony on Mars.

The local beaches were crowded with spectators, many of whom brought folding chairs, dogs, and children along. The crowd was similar to the one that gathered on Monday for the first attempt of the company, which ended up being grounded while engineers tried to fix a problem with the Super heavy booster valve.

Many locals in the area around Starbase, SpaceX's term for the Starship site located on Texas' southernmost point, have welcomed the rocket with great enthusiasm. Starship is permeating local culture in the surrounding area. There's a Starship model in someone's front yard, an entire 'Rocket Ranch,' populated by die-hard fans, and even a billboard advertising Martian Beer.

What you need to know about the rocket

The development of Starship was based in SpaceX's private spaceport, located about 40 minutes from Brownsville, Texas on the border between the US and Mexico.

Years ago, testing began with a few 'hop tests' on early prototypes of spacecrafts. The company began with short flights that lifted only a few dozen foot off the ground, before moving on to higher-altitude flights. Most of these flights ended in explosions when the company tried to land them upright.

However, one suborbital test, which took place in May 2021 was a success.

SpaceX has been working since then to prepare its Super Heavy booster for flight. The 230-foot tall (69-meter) cylinder contains 33 Raptor engines.