What started as the first ever successful test launch of Elon Musk’s SpaceX rocket ended with a bang as only minutes after its fiery lift off, the Starship rocket failed to separate from its lower half and exploded in the sky.
SpaceX workers and dozens of onlookers set up shop at the company’s Starbase spaceport and test facility near Brownsville, Texas, to watch what was supposed to be the rocketship’s 90-minute debut flight into space.
The uncrewed test flight blasted off as scheduled from the Boca Chica launchpad at 9:28 a.m. ET Thursday, shown during a live SpaceX webcast.
SpaceX’s fully-integrated rocketship was designed as a two stage system – the Starship cruise vessel was made to sit atop the company’s new “Super Heavy” powerful raptor engines.
The entire rocketship itself measures 394 feet or 120 meters high, standing taller than the Statue of Liberty.
The live view showed the rocketship rising from the launch tower leaving behind a ball of flames and billowing clouds of exhaust and water vapor.
Once lift-off is underway, the Starship booster rocket is supposed to separate from its Super Heavy lower half.
But instead of separating as intended, four minutes into the launch, the Starship rocket “experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly,” causing the entire vessel to flip upside down and explode in a smokey ball of fire for the world to see.
One SpaceX follower watching the live webcast tweeted his observations.
"I did suspect pieces of Super Heavy rocket & Starship were falling apart & falling down, before the Starship had trouble flipping & separating from Super Heavy rocket. That's at least what my eyes saw from watching the launch stream," the viewer said.
Even so, Musk and his SpaceX officials cheered the blast off for its clean launch, declaring the brief episode a successful test flight.
Musk tweeted a congratulations to his team despite the loss of his ship.
“Congrats @SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship! Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months,” Musk said.
SpaceX also commented on the test launch as it progressed.
“Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first integrated flight test of Starship!," the team tweeted just before the explosion.
“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 afterward.
SpaceX also stated its "teams will continue to review data and work toward our next flight test."
Musk's next-generation space technology company designs, manufactures and launches advanced rockets and spacecraft, including its own fleet of Starlink satellites.
The California based company was founded by the tech mogul in 2002 with the goal of revolutionizing space technology, lowering space transportation costs, and ultimately colonizing Mars.
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