SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched its first Starship rocket on Thursday, but it failed to reach space after it exploded during flight. No crew was on board.
It is the culmination of years of SpaceX regulatory work and engineering testing and is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built.
The company made its first attempt to start this launch on Monday, but the pressure valve on the Super Heavy booster apparently froze. The company’s team worked to resolve an unidentified issue to allow for his second attempt on Thursday.
SpaceX management has repeatedly emphasized the experimental nature of the launch, saying that any outcome involving the Starship getting off the launch pad would be successful.
Starships are designed to carry cargo and people off Earth and are important to NASA’s plans to bring astronauts back to the Moon. Two years ago, SpaceX won about $3 billion contract from NASA to use the Starship as a manned lunar lander. The Starship was used as part of NASA’s Artemis lunar program, carrying astronauts to the moon’s surface from NASA’s SLS rockets and Orion capsules.
The company had hoped to conduct its first orbital Starship launches as early as the summer of 2021 but faced development delays and gaining FAA approval, which came late Friday.
Musk has hinted that another test will begin in a few months.