Skip to main content


SpaceX Starship explodes after takeoff, but Elon Musk declares victory for successful launch

The nearly 400-foot Starship rocket was unmanned and carried no satellites

Fotograma de la transmisión del lanzamiento del cohete Starship desde Boca Chica, Texas
Fotograma de la transmisión del lanzamiento del cohete Starship desde Boca Chica, Texas | EFE/SpaceX

April 20, 2023 6:27pm

Updated: April 20, 2023 6:27pm

SpaceX’s giant new rocket exploded just minutes after it launched from Texas in a Thursday first test flight, and descended into the Gulf of Mexico.

Elon Musk’s revolutionary space exploration company was hoping to send the most powerful and largest ever built rocket on a trip around the world from the Lonestar State, near the southwest border.

The nearly 400-foot Starship rocket was unmanned and carried no satellites.

SpaceX later reported that the Starship had several engines on the 33-engine booster that failed to fire as the rocket propelled into the atmosphere, causing it to tumble and descend.

The world watched in bated breath as hundreds of SpaceX employees watched from South Padre Island, several miles away from the Boca Chica Beach launch site and its headquarters in Hawthorne, California and cheered since the launch was considered a partial success.

As Starship lifted off with a thunderous roar, the crowd screamed: “Go, baby, go!”

Instead of a 90 minute flight, which was what SpaceX expected the full mission to last, the rocket plummeted after four minutes reaching a speed of 1,300 miles per hour and 24 miles.

As a safety precautionary measure, the rocket destructed itself, exploding and falling into the ocean.

In a tweet, Musk, who recently acquired Twitter called it “an exciting test launch of Starship! Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months.”

SpaceX called it a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.”

In the weeks before the launch, Musk said the rocket had a 50-50 chance to reach orbit. He repeatedly said if the Starship successfully left the launch tower without blowing up the pad, the move would be considered a success.

“You never know exactly what’s going to happen,” said SpaceX livestream commentator and engineer John Insprucker. “But as we promised, excitement is guaranteed and Starship gave us a rather spectacular end.”

According to U.S. government reports, the accident investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration said it would oversee the investigation. So far no public property damage or injuries have been reported.

The FAA said that until the Starships are deemed safe however, they will be temporarily grounded.

SpaceX is hoping to get the rocket up and running as soon as possible since the objective of the Starship is to send cargo in manned spaceflights back to the moon. Ultimately, Musk hopes to use the rocket to fulfill his lifelong ambition of reaching Mars.

Former astronaut and Florida based U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson who now heads NASA for the Biden administration offered a congratulations to Musk.

Despite the abbreviated flight, congratulations poured in from NASA chief Bill Nelson and others in the space industry.

Former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield tweeted, “Huge accomplishment, huge lessons, onwards to the next attempt.”

The Starship is a fully reusable stainless steel rocket reaching 394 feet with nearly 17 million pounds of thrust. Its size and power surpasses all of NASA’s past rockets including the massive Saturn V that reached the moon during the Apollo missions during the Johnson and Nixon presidential eras.

Reaching the moon was a dream and ambition declared by President John F. Kennedy shortly before he was assassinated in 1963. The former president said the U.S. would reach the moon by the end of the century.

Just a few years later, by the end of the decade, NASA had reached the moon, effectively defeating the Soviet Union in the space race.