HAWTHORNE (CNS) - It ended with a spectacular explosion, but Hawthorne- based SpaceX is hailing the success of Thursday's test launch of its Starship rocket in south Texas.
"With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today's test will help us improve Starship's reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multi-planetary," the company proclaimed on its Twitter account shortly after the launch and subsequent explosion.
The inaugural flight of Starship, billed as the most powerful rocket ever built, began at roughly 6:30 a.m. California time, as the massive craft cleared the launch pad and ascended into the sky over the Gulf of Mexico. About four minutes later, however, with Starship at an altitude of about 24 miles, it began to spin and then exploded into a fireball -- an event described by SpaceX as "a rapid unscheduled disassembly."
The blast occurred before an anticipated separation of the rocket booster from the spacecraft itself. With the engines failing, self-destruct systems activated on both the spacecraft and in the rocket booster, according to the Hawthorne aerospace company. The wreckage of the craft plunged into the Gulf of Mexico.
"The vehicle experienced multiple engines out during the flight test, lost altitude, and began to tumble," according to SpaceX. "The flight termination system was commanded on both the booster and ship. As is standard procedure, the pad and surrounding area was cleared well in advance of the test, and we expect the road and beach near the pad to remain closed until (Friday).
"With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and we learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems today that will help us improve on future flights of Starship."
SpaceX founder Elon Musk wrote on Twitter -- which he also owns -- "Congrats @SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship! Learned a lot for our next test launch in a few months."
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson posted a Twitter message of his own, saying, "Every great achievement throughout history has demanded some level of calculated risk, because with great risk comes great reward. Looking forward to all that SpaceX learns, to the next flight test -- and beyond."
SpaceX envisions the Starship craft as a vehicle for eventually carrying people and cargo to Mars, although its initial usage is expected to be for transporting astronauts to the moon as part of NASA's Artemis project