South African-born American billionaire, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starship exploded into a ball of fire on Wednesday during its second failed orbital launch in a week.
The rocket, arguably the most powerful in the world, was said to have lifted off the launchpad in South Texas and cleared the launchpad, marking its first milestone.
Four minutes into the flight, the $3 billion craft began to tumble as it prepared to separate the Super Heavy booster from Starship.
Meanwhile, Elon Musk earlier claimed last month that his spacecraft had a 50% chance of exploding during launch.
The Starship rocket was the tallest ever built, roughly the size of a 40-story building, and the main goal, according to staff, was simply to get it off the launch pad.
About 20 minutes after the explosion, the billionaire congratulated the SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship.
“As if the flight test wasn’t exciting enough, Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly prior to stage separation,” SpaceX said in a tweet.
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When Starship ignited its 33 Raptor engines and lifted off the launch pad at the Boca Chica, Texas facility, the mission began with promise.
Cheers erupted in the control room as staff watched the massive vehicle leave the ground.
The Super Heavy booster was expected to separate from Starship three minutes into the mission, but the pair failed to part ways – and they both came crashing down toward Earth.
Despite failing to complete the full flight test, SpaceX in a tweet expressed their excitement and described what happened as a success.
“We cleared the tower which was our only hope,” said Kate Tice, a SpaceX quality systems engineer.
“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 tweeted.
A 164-foot (50-meter) tall spacecraft designed to carry crew and cargo sits atop a 230-foot tall first-stage Super Heavy booster rocket.
“If we get far enough away from the launchpad before something goes wrong, then I think I would consider that to be a success. Just don’t blow up the launchpad,” Musk said before the flight.
The first orbital launch attempt was made for the second time. The mission was supposed to take place on Monday, but it was cancelled due to a glitch moments before takeoff.
Musk tweeted Monday, “A pressurant valve appears to be frozen, so unless it starts operating soon, no launch today.”
He has also stated that SpaceX is building several more Starship rockets, with an 80 percent chance that one of them will reach orbit before the end of the year.
The mission, which would have sent Starship around Earth once before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, would have been an early step towards Musk’s goal of using the craft to transport people and cargo to the moon and Mars.