Skip to main content

SpaceX’s Starship successfully takes off before bursting into flames

SpaceX’s Starship successfully takes off before bursting into flames


The spacecraft spun out of control and burst into flames shortly after launch.

Share this story

An image showing Starship taking off
Screenshot: SpaceX

SpaceX’s integrated Starship spacecraft successfully took off from its launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas, on Thursday but didn’t manage to fully complete its test flight. The spacecraft spun out of control before bursting into a ball of flames about four minutes into its flight, cutting the test short.

In a statement on Twitter, SpaceX said, “Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation.” During today’s 90-minute test flight, Starship was supposed to reach an altitude of about 150 miles during a journey around the globe before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. SpaceX scrubbed its first test flight attempt on April 17th due to a “frozen” pressurant valve.

After the launch, Elon Musk tweeted that SpaceX’s next Starship test flight will occur “in a few months.”

GIF: Tristan Cooper / The Verge

The 394-foot launch system, which is comprised of the Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft, is known collectively as Starship. SpaceX’s Super Heavy booster comes equipped with 33 powerful Falcon Raptor engines and is designed to be reusable. However, SpaceX wasn’t going to take advantage of this feature this time around, as the booster was supposed to drop into the Gulf of Mexico shortly after launch instead of attempting to land upright.

According to SpaceX, the goal of today’s test was to “inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship,” even if things don’t go as planned during the flight. SpaceX’s launch system will eventually help ferry both astronauts and cargo to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. It’s the same system that NASA will use to bring astronauts back to the Moon during the Artemis III mission in 2025.

This test flight has been a long time coming, with some SpaceX diehards uprooting their lives and moving near the rocket’s launch site just to witness its tests. SpaceX received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) earlier this month following years of fiery testing as SpaceX prepared for its first official Starship test flight.

Update April 20th, 9:48AM ET: Updated to note that the flight was cut short.

Update April 20th, 10:25AM ET: Added comment from Elon Musk.