SpaceX successfully launches largest ever space rocket – which blows up

SpaceX successfully launches largest ever space rocket – which blows up
Starship lifting off
Starship lifting off
View 1 Image
Starship lifting off
Starship lifting off

History was made today as a private company leapfrogged ahead of NASA by launching the largest, most powerful rocket ever. At 8:36 am CDT, SpaceX's uncrewed Starship lifted off from the company's Starbase at Boca Chica, Texas, on an orbital test flight that came to an explosive end four minutes into the flight.

Under mostly clear skies and moderate winds, the Starship lifted off as its 33 Raptor liquid-fuel engines in the Super Heavy first stage built up 16,700,000 lb of thrust. At the one-minute-20-second mark, the rocket passed through Max Q or the point of maximum dynamic pressure.

The next phase of the flight was the separation and ignition of the second stage, however, the rocket went into an uncontrolled spin and "fell apart" (in other words, exploded) at the four-minute mark. Ideally, the separation would have been followed by the first stage making a soft ocean landing while the Starship second stage went on to go into orbit for a soft water landing 90 minutes later 62 miles (100 km) northwest of Kauai in the Hawaiian islands.

SpaceX stresses that the loss of the rocket does not constitute a failure of the mission. The objective of the first flight was for the fully assembled rocket, which is larger than the Saturn V, to clear the launch pad. Everything after that was regarded as a bonus.

Today's successful flight will likely cause some concern in NASA circles because the Starship has twice the thrust of the planned Block 3 Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and can carry 20 tonnes more payload into low Earth orbit. With its ability to refuel in space, it's also claimed to be capable of delivering 100 tonnes to the Moon when fully operational.

Worse, its estimated flight costs are under US$10 million while the SLS is estimated, by some, to cost over US$4 billion per flight, and the Starship is fully reusable, meaning that it can fly more frequently than the SLS, which is only scheduled to lift off an average of about once a year or every two years.

Add to this that SpaceX claims that the Starship will be able to fly to the Moon and, one day, Mars and land directly on the surface, then not only NASA, but ESA and China may need to do some serious recalculations if Starship works out as promised.

The video below recaps the first orbital launch of the Starship.

Starship Flight Test

Source: SpaceX

Just getting the thing off the ground is only the first step. Better than blowing up on the pad, but this does kinda define "success" downward.
Bob Flint
The first largest steps are always the hardest, with the 5 (not 3 engines as one commenter noted) off, the trajectory was next to impossible to maintain, likely why no separation occurred. One could see in Elon's eyes, he already knows what to do next.

Bravo to the SpaceX team...
Bob Flint
At 46.20, you can see 6 engines out of 33 off, @18% lopsided thrust.
No matter how you slice it blowing up isnt a success. So if next time its manned and it makes it to separation and then blows up theyll call it a sucess?
Spud Murphy
Vince, a first launch of a new rocket, the largest rocket ever built, and managing to get 4 minutes of flight, is an unqualified success.
It's very impressive what SpaceX are doing. I've been following their Boca Chica activity for years. The scale of this private venture operation is mind-boggling, and shows the pure vision and commitment of Elon Musk and his massive workforce of very clever people. This operation show-cases how clever humans can be, if a challenge is put in front of them. Engineers like nothing more than to solve the unsolvable. A huge round of applause for the SpaceX engineers: True Creators of Tomorrow.
Why can't media outfits figure out how to accurately cover these SpaceX launches accurately? New Atlas does better than most, but the headline is not "SpaceX blows up another rocket". They successfully LAUNCHED the largest rocket ever....full stop. It's like saying the headline to someone's life story is: "Another person died". It's so frustrating that they consistently miss the point of these major improvements in space flight. Not that it matters much, but it greatly influences people's opinions of Elon Musk and the extraordinary innovation SpaceX is making in space flight. What has the greater journalist power: "SpaceX makes another leap forward in improving space flight" or "Rocket boy blows up another rocket"?
It's also worth noting that the lift-off was slow because a couple of the engines failed to fire, so the lift-off thrust didn't exceed the weight of the rocket, until some of the fuel was burnt off. This extra time on the pad, with the momentum from the engine exhaust drilling a hole in the ground, resulted in a huge crater being created in the ground, as huge amounts of the concrete pad was blasted into the sky and the sea. The pad facilities and tank farm has sustained significant damage and will take many months to repair. The amount of power the SpaceX engineers were controlling here was phenomenal. Their clever software kept the rocket upright, eventhough the thrust was not symmetrical. Pushing the self-destruct button at the end, was the right thing to do.
that 10 mill estimated flight cost seems very low.
Looks like a bomb went off on the concrete below the platform. The reason it was flipping was that it was still low and became top-heavy with Starship fully fueled.
Load More