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Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starship rocket explodes mid-air

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In a test flight that its creators, SpaceX, hoped would take the first step on a human voyage to Mars, the biggest and most potent rocket ever built launched from Texas but blew up within minutes.

The 120-meter Starship rocket system launched on Thursday at 8.33 am local time (2.33 pm in the UK), following a launch that was postponed earlier this week due to a pressurization issue. About four minutes after departing the ground, it gained speed before beginning to spin at an altitude.

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It looked that the booster and cruise vessel of the rocket system couldn’t fully separate after takeoff, which may have contributed to the spacecraft’s failure.

SpaceX had earlier issued a warning that the chances of success were slim and that the test flight’s primary goal—regardless of whether the complete mission was accomplished—was to gather data. Even after the rocket burst, SpaceX employees continued to applaud.

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“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.

The Starship cruise ship, which is intended to eventually take up to 100 astronauts, was put on top of the Super Heavy booster rocket, whose 33 Raptor engines delivered the enormous power required for the unmanned sub-orbital test, making it the first “fully stacked” trial.

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The enormous spacecraft is over three passenger planes long and is 10 meters taller than the Saturn V rocket that launched explorers to the moon in 1969.

Musk said he developed Starship, previously named the BFR (heavily hinted to mean Big Fucking Rocket), so humans could eventually become an interplanetary species. To do this, he intends to begin the colonisation of Mars, which he said was needed to preserve humanity in case a planet-destroying event, such as nuclear war or an asteroid strike, wipes out life on Earth.

SpaceX claims Starship, which has a payload capacity of up to 150 tons, will be able to transport dozens of people on long-duration interplanetary flights. It already has a privately funded trip for 11 people around the moon scheduled for this year, although that timing now appears unrealistic.

The company has announced longer-term plans to also use the spacecraft as a shuttle for commercial travel on Earth, promising trips from London to Tokyo in under one hour.


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