SpaceX’s Starship Rocket Explodes on Test Flight, Dashing Plans for Round-the-World Trip

SpaceX's massive Starship rocket exploded moments after takeoff during its first test flight. The unmanned mission aimed to complete a round-the-world trip from southern Texas but crashed into the Gulf of Mexico instead. The rocket was carrying no people or satellites, but its failure raises concerns about the future of SpaceX's ambitious plans for the spacecraft.

SpaceX’s ambitious plans for its Starship rocket took a hit on Thursday when the spacecraft exploded just minutes after takeoff during its first test flight. The rocket was unmanned and carried no people or satellites, but its failure raises concerns about the future of the spacecraft’s intended missions.

The Starship rocket was set to complete a round-the-world trip from southern Texas, near the Mexican border. However, shortly after takeoff, images showed that several of the rocket’s 33 main engines were not firing. The rocket still managed to reach a height of 24 miles (39 kilometers), but it soon began to tumble and then exploded, plummeting into the Gulf of Mexico.

The spacecraft was designed to be fully reusable, with a fast turnaround time, which would have dramatically lowered the costs of space travel. The company plans to use the Starship rocket to send people and cargo to the moon and, eventually, Mars. NASA has even reserved a Starship for its next moonwalking team, and rich tourists are already booking lunar flybys.

At 394 feet and nearly 17 million pounds of thrust, Starship easily surpasses NASA’s moon rockets – past, present, and future. But the spacecraft’s failure highlights the challenges of developing and testing new rocket technology.

SpaceX has more boosters and spacecraft lined up for more test flights, but the failure of the Starship rocket’s inaugural launch with 33 methane-fueled engines is a significant setback. The futuristic spacecraft has flown several miles into the air during previous tests, but this launch was intended to be the first-stage booster’s first flight.

Despite the setback, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk remains undeterred in his quest to make space travel more accessible and affordable. Musk hopes to launch several Starship rockets in quick succession so that he can start using them to launch satellites into low-Earth orbit and eventually put people on board.

Thursday’s launch was the second attempt after the first try on Monday was scrapped due to a frozen booster valve. The explosion of the Starship rocket serves as a reminder that rocket technology remains incredibly complex and difficult to perfect, even for the most innovative and well-funded companies.