Starship, the largest rocket ever built, exploded shortly after take-off on Thursday afternoon – but SpaceX still hailed the mission a success.
The rocket, which stands at 120m tall, blasted off at 2.33pm BST from SpaceX’s Texas HQ. Clearing the launchpad and tower, its 33 engines hurtled the rocket skyward at hundreds of miles an hour.
At around three minutes into the mission the rocket tilted into a horizontal position ready to separate the space-bound Starship craft from the Super Heavy booster rocket, but appeared to fall into a spin. After failing to separate, the rocket exploded in spectacular fashion against a clear blue sky.
However, SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk were clear from the start that they were not expecting the mission to be completed. On Sunday night Mr Musk said expecting everything to go according to plan would be ‘insane’.
Instead the launch has been seen as an opportunity to test the countdown and moment of lift-off itself, with anything else a bonus.
‘If we get far enough away from the launch pad before something goes wrong, then I would consider that a success,’ Mr Musk said on Sunday. ‘Just don’t blow up the pad.’
Kate Tice, SpaceX quality systems engineering manager and broadcast host, added: ‘Success is anything we learn that helps with future builds of Starship – if we clear the pad that’s a win.’