WATCH AGAIN: SpaceX giant Starship rocket explodes minutes after historic test launch

Rocket experienced ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly’

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas – SpaceX’s Starship, the most powerful rocket, launched Thursday morning from Texas in its first test flight before exploding minutes and crashing into the Gulf of Mexico.

The fully integrated Starship and super heavy rocket launched from the Starbase facility in Texas at 9:28 a.m.

“We cleared the tower, which honestly was our only hope,” SpaceX said.

The test flight was supposed to last 1.5 hours, and fall short of a full orbit of Earth. However, SpaceX said the rocket experienced “a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation.”

The rocket began to tumble and then exploded four minutes into the flight, plummeting into the gulf. No people or satellites were aboard for this debut launch.

Throngs of spectators watched from South Padre Island, several miles away from the Boca Chica Beach launch site, which was off-limits. As it lifted off, the crowd screamed: “Go, baby, go!”

The spacecraft was then planned to continue eastward, passing over the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans before ditching near Hawaii. Starship is designed to be fully reusable but nothing will be saved from the test flight.

The futuristic spacecraft flew several miles into the air during testing a few years ago, landing successfully only once. But this was to be the inaugural launch of the first-stage booster with 33 methane-fueled engines.

“With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multi-planetary,” SpaceX said.

Space Florida, the state’s aerospace finance and development authority, released a statement following the test flight.

“We want to congratulate SpaceX on the successful launch of Starship, marking a spectacular milestone for the company and the space industry. SpaceX continues to inspire with their unwavering commitment to innovation, technology, and pushing the limits of what’s possible,” said Frank DiBello, president and CEO of Space Florida.

SpaceX tried for a historic launch on Monday morning, but the countdown was halted at the 40-second mark because of a stuck valve in the first-stage booster. Launch controllers couldn’t fix the frozen valve in time, and canceled the attempt. The countdown continued, and fueling was completed, as a dress rehearsal.

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SpaceX said Starship and its super heavy rocket is the most powerful spacecraft ever built, standing at nearly 400 feet tall. Its goal will be to fly to the moon and eventually Mars. Last year, NASA selected Starship to support a sustained program on the moon as part of the Artemis program.

SpaceX is also building a Starship launch facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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About the Authors:

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.

Christie joined the ClickOrlando team in November 2021.