SCIENCE + TECHNOLOGY

SpaceX’s Starship rocket explodes in midair after liftoff

Apr 20, 2023, 7:56 AM | Updated: Oct 17, 2023, 9:32 am

Originally Published: 20 APR 23 09:45 ET
Updated: 20 APR 23 10:07 ET

 (CNN) — SpaceX’s Starship took off from a launch pad on the coast of South Texas on Thursday at 9:28 a.m. ET, but exploded midair before stage separation.

Thursday’s launch marked the vehicle’s historic first test flight. “As if the flight test was not exciting enough, Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation,” SpaceX tweeted.

The massive Super Heavy rocket booster, which houses 33 engines, lifted off and sent a massive boom across the coastal landscape as it fired to life. The Starship spacecraft, riding atop the booster, soared out over the Gulf of Mexico.

About two and a half minutes after takeoff, the Super Heavy rocket booster was scheduled to expend most of its fuel and separate from the Starship spacecraft, leaving the booster to be discarded in the ocean. The Starship was meant to use its own engines, blazing for more than six minutes, to propel itself to nearly orbital speeds.

SpaceX said that “teams will continue to review data and work toward our next flight test.”

Although it ended in an explosion, Thursday’s test met several of the company’s objectives for the vehicle.

Clearing the launch pad was a major milestone for Starship. In the lead-up to Thursday’s liftoff, Musk sought to temper expectations, saying, “success is not what should be expected…That would be insane.”

“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 after the explosion.

The test flight comes after years of explosive tests, regulatory hurdles and public hyping from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Musk has talked about Starship — making elaborate presentations about its design and purpose — for years, and he frequently harps on its potential for carrying cargo and humans to Mars, though NASA also plans to use the vehicle to put its astronauts on the moon. He’s even said that his sole purpose for founding SpaceX was to develop a vehicle like Starship that could establish a human settlement on the Red Planet.

Throngs of spectators lined local beaches to catch a glimpse of Starship’s takeoff, pouring onto beaches with fold-out chairs, children and dogs in tow. It echoed the turnout on Monday, at the company’s first launch attempt, which was ultimately left grounded as engineers worked to troubleshoot an issue with a valve on the Super heavy booster.

In the area surrounding Starbase — SpaceX’s name for the Starship development site that lies on Texas’ southernmost tip — many locals have greeted the rocket with fervid enthusiasm. Throughout the area, there are signs of Starship permeating the local culture: a model Starship in a front yard, a “Rocket Ranch” camping ground filled with diehard enthusiasts, and a billboard advertising Martian beer.

What to know about this rocket

Development of Starship has been based at SpaceX’s privately held spaceport about 40 minutes outside Brownsville, Texas, on the US-Mexico border.

Testing began years ago with brief “hop tests” of early spacecraft prototypes. The company started with brief flights that lifted a few dozen feet off the ground before evolving to high-altitude flights, most of which resulted in dramatic explosions as the company attempted to land them upright.

One suborbital flight test in May 2021, however, ended in success.

Since then, SpaceX has also been working to get its Super Heavy booster prepared for flight. The gargantuan, 230-foot-tall (69-meter-tall) cylinder is packed with 33 of the company’s Raptor engines.

Fully stacked, Starship and Super Heavy stand about 400 feet (120 meters) tall.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Science + Technology

The word "privacy" is nowhere in the U.S. Constitution. But with technology changing things by the ...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Should we have a consumer right to privacy?

A bipartisan proposal would define privacy as a consumer right and create new rules for data collection companies to follow.

1 day ago

The New Horizons spacecraft took an image of Pluto's heart on July 14, 2015....

Ashley Strickland, CNN

Pluto gained a ‘heart’ after colliding with a planetary body

Researchers think they have solved the mystery of how Pluto's distinctive heart came to be. It could reveal new clues about its origins.

1 day ago

Artificial intelligence could be the next tool used in mental health therapy....

Amanda Dickson

Artificial intelligence may be able to help with your mental health

University of Utah researchers are working to understand how artificial intelligence and mental health therapists might work together.

6 days ago

denver airport, a southwest flight from the airport suffered a mechanical issue...

Pete Muntean and Philip Wang, CNN

Southwest Boeing 737-800 flight from Denver loses engine cover, FAA investigating

Southwest said its maintenance teams would review the aircraft. The flight reached an altitude of about 10,000 feet.

13 days ago

Neuroscientist David Eagleman speaks at the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall on Tuesday as the k...

Sky Mundell, KSL.COM

Neuroscientist David Eagleman proposes test of intelligence for AI to Utah audience

Eagleman spoke as part of the Natural History Museum's lecture series centered around the nature of intelligence.

13 days ago

a laptop shows openai voice engine blog post...

Clare Duffy, CNN

OpenAI says it’s working on AI that mimics human voices

OpenAI shared samples from early tests of Voice Engine, which uses a 15-second sample of someone speaking to generate a convincing replica of their voice.

20 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.

...

Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket explodes in midair after liftoff