By Kevin Zhang
Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX has just test launched its massive new rocket, Starship. The gargantuan spacecraft exploded just minutes in on its maiden flight.
No-one was hurt during the uncrewed test that lifted off from the Texas coast on Thursday morning local time.
Just two or three minutes into the flight, the rocket, the biggest ever built, started to tumble out of control and was soon detonated by onboard explosives.
Musk has stated that his company will try for another test launch in a few months.
SpaceX engineers still consider Thursday’s test launch as a success. According to one engineer, they like to “test early and often” and are “not afraid to break things”. They have gathered a mass of data to work towards the next flight. The second Starship is almost ready for launch.
“Congrats @SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship! Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months,” Mr Musk tweeted.
The Federal Aviation Administration, which licenses rocket launches in the US, said it would oversee a mishap investigation. A spokesman for the department said that it was standard practice when a vehicle was lost in flight.
Musk had tried to adjust public expectations before the launch. He had said that just getting the rocket off the ground and not destroying the launch pad would be considered a success. His wish was granted, and Starship cleared its launch complex on the US-Mexico border and picked up pace as it headed out over the Gulf of Mexico.
However, as the rocket ascended, it could be seen that six of the 33 engines at the base of the vehicle had been shut down or had flamed out. Three minutes into the flight, it was obvious that the rocket could not go much further.
At four minutes after launch, the Starship was losing altitude, and a large explosion which detonated the entirety of the rocket was triggered by a flight termination system.
“With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and we learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems today that will help us improve on future flights of Starship,” SpaceX said in a statement.