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SpaceX Starship suffers mid-flight failure during its first-ever launch

Published Apr 20th, 2023 10:27AM EDT
spacex starship inaugural launch reveal
Image: Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald via AP

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched Starship for the first time on Thursday, and the rocket’s maiden voyage to space was a partial success. That is, Starship took off, but it never made it to space, instead exploding into a ball of fire.

The launch is still a success for SpaceX, whose main goal was merely for the Starship rocket to launch. The company said that any result involving Starship getting off the launchpad would be considered a win for the project.

Starship is expected to play a key role in NASA’s plans to return to the Moon. The massive rocket should ferry cargo and people into space, to the Moon specifically. SpaceX won a $3 billion contract from NASA two years ago to make the next lunar lender.

Once it becomes fully operational, Starship will be a part of NASA’s Artemis program to get humans back to the Moon.

After development and regulatory approval delays, SpaceX failed to start Starship tests in the summer of 2021. Fast-forward to mid-April 2023, and SpaceX wanted to get Starship off the ground on Monday. However, a pressure valve in the Super Heavy booster froze earlier this week. SpaceX hurried to fix the issues in time for a second launch attempt on Thursday.

As you’ll see in the clip below, via CNBC, SpaceX managed to get Starship off the ground. Therefore, according to the company’s mission goals, we’re looking at a success for the Moon program.

However, Starship never made it to space after suffering a mid-flight failure. The rocket flew for about four minutes before it had to self-destruct. This explains the cheering in the background, as the SpaceX team is still happy with the inaugural launch. The explosion can be seen around 49 minutes into the video below.

This was an unmanned flight, as we’re looking at SpaceX’s first Starship launch. This is just the first of many tests that Starship will go through before it actually transports humans to space.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.