During a test flight, Elon Musk’s large rocket exploded with the SpaceX Starship.

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How the SpaceX launch actually went in 59 seconds. Image: REUTERS

The inaugural flight of Starship, the colossal new rocket from Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, ended in a catastrophic explosion.

Fortunately, there were no injuries reported during the unmanned trial that took off from the eastern coast of Texas on Thursday morning.

However, approximately two to three minutes into the launch, Starship, which is the largest rocket ever created, began to spiral out of control, and subsequently disintegrated due to the detonation of explosives onboard.

According to Mr. Musk, SpaceX plans to make another attempt in a few months. Despite the unsuccessful launch, the SpaceX engineers consider the mission on Thursday to be a triumph.

They adhere to the principle of “testing early and frequently” and are unafraid of encountering setbacks.

The team has likely accumulated a considerable amount of information that will aid them in preparing for the next launch. Another Starship is nearly prepared for takeoff.

Mr. Musk shared his congratulations to the SpaceX team via Twitter, following the thrilling test launch of Starship.

He also noted that the team had acquired valuable insights to utilize in the upcoming test launch, scheduled to occur in a few months.

The Federal Aviation Administration, responsible for granting licenses for rocket launches in the United States, announced that it will supervise an investigation into the mishap.

The agency’s spokesperson stated that this is customary procedure in instances where a vehicle is lost during flight.

Elon Musk (front and center) was in the Texas control room watching the launch.

Prior to the launch, the entrepreneur had attempted to lower expectations by stating that simply achieving liftoff without damaging the launch pad infrastructure would be considered “a win.”

His desire was fulfilled, as Starship successfully cleared its launch complex on the border of the US and Mexico and gained momentum as it traversed the Gulf of Mexico.

However, it became apparent within a minute or so that not all aspects of the launch were going according to plan.

Over the Gulf, the Starship ascended to a maximum height of 39 kilometers.

As the rocket soared higher and higher, it became apparent that six out of the 33 engines situated at the base of the vehicle had either malfunctioned or shut down.

By the three-minute mark of the flight, it was apparent that the launch was headed for disaster.

The two halves of the vehicle, which should have separated, remained connected and deviated off course. Starship was losing altitude when a significant explosion erupted in the sky roughly four minutes after liftoff.

This was likely triggered by the vehicle’s Flight Termination System (FTS), either by an onboard computer or a ground operator.

In a statement, SpaceX stated that “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.”

The upper portion of Starship, known as the ship, had previously conducted short hops.

However, this was the first instance of it launching with its lower-stage, which is a colossal booster named Super Heavy.

In February, Super Heavy was ignited while clamped to its launch mount, but its engines were throttled back to 50% of their capacity.

If SpaceX had utilized 90% thrust during the recent launch attempt, as promised, the stage should have produced roughly 70 meganewtons of force.

This is twice the amount of thrust generated by the famous Saturn V rocket that carried astronauts to the Moon during the 1960s and 70s.

While Starship did not demolish its launch pad, subsequent images indicated that the vigorous departure had caused considerable damage to the surrounding concrete surfaces.

The objective of the mission was to launch Starship and complete nearly a full orbit around the Earth, with a final splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, several hundred kilometers north of Hawaii.

There was no plan to recover either the ship or Super Heavy during this particular mission, but the ultimate goal is to retrieve both components, refuel them, and launch them repeatedly.

If successful, this achievement would have far-reaching consequences. With the potential to carry over 100 tonnes of payload into orbit per flight and low operating costs – primarily just the cost of fuel – Starship has the potential to create a remarkable future.

“The industry has very high expectations for the potential of this vehicle for disruption,” stated space consultant Carissa Bryce.

“From a commercial standpoint, its enormous capacity could be significant. A human-rated vehicle of this size could be essential for the emergence of space tourism.

The other aspect is the vehicle’s affordability. So you have a vehicle with two transformational aspects – immense capacity and potentially a very low cost.”

SpaceX received $3 billion from NASA for a human landing system based on the Starship. Photo: SPACEX.

Initially, the entrepreneur plans to utilize Starship to launch numerous additional satellites for his Starlink broadband internet constellation in the sky.

Only after the vehicle’s reliability has been confirmed by engineers will individuals be allowed to travel on the rocket.

A billionaire US businessman and skilled fast-jet pilot named Jared Isaacman has already been selected to command the first mission.

He has previously flown to space in a SpaceX Dragon capsule.

Moreover, Japanese retail fashion billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has arranged for the first flight around the Moon as part of his DearMoon project, with eight artists accompanying him.

Additionally, the US space agency, NASA, intends to employ a version of Starship to facilitate its astronauts’ landing on the surface of the Moon.

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