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Watch: Elon Musk’s Starship explodes minutes after take-off

SpaceX's next-generation Starship spacecraft exploded minutes after take-off during its first test flight

SpaceX’s next-generation Starship spacecraft exploded minutes after take-off during its first test flight on Thursday, in a major setback for Elon Musk’s plan to eventually take humans to the moon and Mars.

The gigantic rocket successfully blasted off at 8:33 am Central Time from the private SpaceX spaceport in Texas. The Starship capsule had been scheduled to separate from the first-stage rocket booster three minutes into the flight but separation failed to occur and the rocket blew up, according to an AFP report.

The plan was for Starship to soar into space at least 150 km above Earth after which it would re-enter the atmosphere and land in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.

Despite the failure to complete the full flight test, SpaceX declared it a success. “We cleared the tower which was our only hope,” said Kate Tice, a SpaceX quality systems engineer.

“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,” SpaceX tweeted. “Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first integrated flight test of Starship!”

Musk said that the next Starship test would be carried out in a few months.

The rocket was launched after a failed first attempt on Monday, where liftoff of the giant rocket was called off at the last minute due to a pressurization issue in the booster stage.

Elon Musk had warned ahead of the launch that technical issues were likely and sought to play down expectations over the maiden test flight.

“It’s a very risky flight,” he said. “It’s the first launch of a very complicated, gigantic rocket. There’s a million ways this rocket could fail,” Musk said.

US space agency NASA has chosen Starship spacecraft to take astronauts to the Moon in late 2025 as part of the Artemis III mission which is being undertaken for the first time since the Apollo program ended in 1972.

SpaceX plans to eventually put a Starship into orbit, and then refuelling it with another Starship so it can continue on a journey to Mars or beyond.

Musk has said that his eventual goal is to establish bases on the Moon and Mars and put humans on the “path to being a multi-planet civilization.”