Business Insider: SpaceX launched Starship, the world’s tallest and most powerful rocket, towards orbit for the first time.
The mega-rocket exploded about three minutes after liftoff – an outcome Elon Musk anticipated.
SpaceX’s Starship mega-rocket burst into a fireball during its first attempt to launch into orbit on Thursday, adding another incident to the rocket’s explosive history.
Elon Musk’s grand plans hinge on Starship, which promises to be the tallest and most powerful rocket the world has ever built, as well as the first to be fully reusable.
Elon Musk founded SpaceX with the goal of making spaceflight cheap enough to establish a permanent human settlement on Mars. Starship is the rocket that should do this.
An eerie silence fell in the control room of SpaceX’s facilities, where Musk himself was watching, until the rocket exploded in a falling fireball. It is not yet clear what caused the problem.
“Starship just experienced what we call a rapid unscheduled disassembly,” SpaceX announcer John Insprucker said on the company’s livestream.
SpaceX was planning for the rocket to reach space, spend an hour at orbital altitude and splash down in one piece in the Pacific Ocean north of the Hawaiian Islands.
The biggest concern for Musk will be whether Starship becomes a “fireball” and melts the launch pad, he said during a Twitter space session on Sunday. Musk said such an event would melt the steel and damage the launch pad, which would take months for SpaceX to rebuild.
Musk had estimated a roughly 50% chance of success, indicating that it could explode like previous low-flying prototypes.
“I’m not saying it will get into orbit, but I’m guaranteeing the excitement,” Musk said in an interview at the Morgan Stanley conference on March 7, “will not be boring!”
This probably isn’t the end of Starship. Elon Musk has previously said that SpaceX is building several Starship rockets to launch this year. Musk estimated that there is about an 80% chance that one of them will reach orbital altitude.
“It will probably take a few more years before we get to full and fast reusability,” Musk said at a Morgan Stanley conference in March, adding reusability was “the profound breakthrough needed to expand life beyond Earth.”