SpaceX Starship – the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built – blasted off from the southern tip of Texas on Thursday morning.
However, just minutes later and awaiting stage separation, it experienced a failure – what SpaceX livestream hosts described as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”
The cause of the failure was not immediately clear.
It marked the first launch of the Starship’s two sections together and comes after the first attempt was scrubbed on Monday due to a problem that occurred during fueling.
A stuck valve needed to pressurize the first-stage booster forced the team to scrap the launch.
“Learned a lot today,” Musk tweeted after the flight was postponed.
While Starship is designed to be fully reusable, none of the nearly 400-foot-tall rocket will be recovered.
If all goes well, the first-stage booster, or the Super Heavy, will drop into the Gulf of Mexico. This is the inaugural Super Heavy flight. The spacecraft on top will pass over the Atlantic before coming down near Hawaii.
The entire flight is expected to last for just an hour and a half.
SpaceX plans to use the Starship – and its 16.7 million pounds of thrust – to send people and cargo to the moon and Mars. This test flight is not carrying people or satellites.
Early versions of the upper stage rocketed into the stratosphere, landing upright for the first time in 2021.
Musk estimates that there is an 80% chance that one of the fleets of Starships under construction will reach orbit by the end of the year. He expects that it will take a couple of years to achieve full and rapid reusability.
The Federal Aviation Administration awarded SpaceX a launch license last Friday. The license is valid for five years.
The agency’s decision was criticized by the American Bird Conservancy, which blasted the company’s operations for allegedly damaging important coastal bird habitats, showing a picture of a plover next to debris in Boca Chica.
“Space X operations continue to damage important coastal bird habitats at Boca Chica in south Texas,” Mike Parr, the president of the American Bird Conservancy, said in a statement. “We believe that Cape Canaveral offers a much lower environmental impact option, and is underutilized with less than one launch per month currently despite having six active launch pads and more pads that could be made available.”
NASA has reserved a Starship for its next moonwalking team – which could come as early as 2025 – and rich tourists are already booking lunar flybys.
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