SpaceX's second attempt to launch its signature massive Starship rocket took steps in the right direction Thursday, but ended prematurely in a fiery explosion.
The test flight took place three days after the private space firm scrapped an initial launch after it detected a frozen valve on the vessel. This time around, the unmanned hulking 400-foot Starship departed from the launch pad in Texas, and went soaring into the sky, lifting upwards for nearly four minutes before detonating in a spectacular fireball.
The stainless steel spacecraft was attempting to separate from its Super Heavy launch rocket when it began spiraling downward before exploding. After disconnecting, it was supposed to begin using its Raptor engines to fly around the world, eventually crashing down in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
The cause of the failure was not immediately identified by SpaceX, but founder and tech billionaire Elon Musk said the firm "learned a lot for next test launch," which he said will take place "in a few months."
The company plans to use Starship as its premier rocket to send people and cargo to the moon and beyond, aiming to eventually send a crew to Mars.
Also read: Elon Musk's SpaceX set for debut flight of Starship rocket system to space
The stainless-steel Starship and its Super Heavy rocket are intended to be reusable, and the company has a contract with NASA to use it for the Artemis program, which seeks to send humans back to the Moon by 2025.
"As if the flight test was not exciting enough, Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation," SpaceX said on Twitter, which is also owned by Musk. "
"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. Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first integrated flight test of Starship!" it said.