The largest and most powerful rocket ever built has blasted off from Texas but blew up within minutes in a test flight that its makers, SpaceX, hope will be the first step on a human journey to Mars, The Guardian reports.
After a cancelled launch earlier this week because of a pressurisation issue, the 120-metre Starship rocket system took off at 8.33am local time (2.33pm in the UK) on Thursday. It gathered speed but then started to spin at altitude before exploding about four minutes after leaving the ground.
It appeared that the two sections of the rocket system – the booster and cruise vessel – were unable to separate properly after takeoff, possibly causing the spacecraft to fail.
SpaceX had previously cautioned that the chances of success were low and that the aim of the test flight was to gather data, regardless of whether the full mission was achieved. Employees at SpaceX cheered even after the rocket exploded.
“As if the flight test was not exciting enough, Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation,” SpaceX said in a statement on Twitter, referring to the explosion.