SpaceX’s Super Heavy Rocket and Starship Suffers Setback in First Uncrewed Test Flight

SpaceX attempted the first uncrewed orbital test flight of its Super Heavy rocket, topped with the experimental crew capsule Starship this week. However, after one aborted launch earlier in the week, the Starship component failed to separate from the Super Heavy booster, and the combined rocket stack exploded. Despite being a setback for the team, SpaceX head Elon Musk said that a lot had been learned from the flight, and another test launch would take place in several months.[0] The Starship is a larger, more powerful, and reusable rocket compared to NASA’s Artemis Special Launch System. It has the potential to transport humans to both the moon and Mars. At 394 feet and nearly 17 million pounds of thrust, Starship easily surpasses NASA’s moon rockets, past, present, and future.[1] The stainless steel rocket is designed to be fully reusable with fast turnaround, lowering costs dramatically.[1]

Starship consists of a huge first-stage booster called Super Heavy and a 165-foot-tall upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship. Both elements are designed to be fully and rapidly reusable, a breakthrough that SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk thinks will make Mars colonization economically feasible.[2] However, Starship is unlike any other rocket, and SpaceX acknowledges that the first test flight will be extremely risky. The launch attempt is set to take place during a 150-minute window that opens at 8 a.m. Eastern on Monday, April 17.[3]

Notwithstanding these apprehensions, Elon Musk affirmed that the corporation is targeting to release another entirely integrated Starship within “1 to 2 months.”[4] SpaceX is receiving approximately one billion dollars from NASA to create a modified version of Starship for a moon exploration mission, but this objective is expected to take several years to accomplish. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told CNN in 2019 that he believes the cost of developing Starship will be “closer to a two or three (billion dollars) than it is to 10 (billion).” NASA has also given SpaceX contracts worth up to $4 billion for two lunar landing missions, though that money is paid out as SpaceX hits certain milestones.

The separation of the Starship from the Super Heavy booster was expected after the rocket had consumed a significant amount of its fuel, but unfortunately, it did not occur. Just before the main engine cut-off and staging for Starship at 2:40, Super Heavy Booster initiated its arc to align itself for Starship staging. The arc extended and formed a loop.[5] The booster’s guidance and control system did not seem to accept this as a failure of guidance laws.[5] The booster completed over 3 loop de loops over the course of 1 minute and 19 seconds after which the flight termination system engaged at 3:59.[5] The failure of the flight termination system to terminate the launch after explosions at the base of the Super Heavy Booster or the booster doing multiple aerial acrobatics is likely something that will need to be resolved before another launch is allowed.[5]

Starship is also the landing vehicle for NASA’s Artemis III mission that will once again return humans to the surface of the moon. The original plan entailed the booster separating from the spacecraft a few minutes after launch, but it did not come to fruition.[1] The rocket began to spin out, and then exploded four minutes into the flight, plummeting into the Gulf.[6] After separating, the spacecraft was supposed to continue east and attempt to circle the world before crashing into the Pacific near Hawaii.[1] The wreckage of the Starship extended for miles across the Gulf of Mexico, far beyond the Starbase.[7] In one of SpaceX’s videos of the launch shared on Twitter, debris from Starship was clearly visible on doppler radar over the Gulf of Mexico.[7]

It is uncertain if the recent failed attempt by SpaceX will have an effect on the Space Force’s objective of establishing a Rocket Cargo capability by 2026. The outcome will probably hinge on the reason for the mishap and how soon the company bounces back.[8] Seeing its colossal rocket take flight is also a business priority for SpaceX.[3] The Starship has the potential to launch a vast quantity of the corporation’s “Starlink” satellites, which provide internet services.[3] Starlink is seen as a key part of SpaceX’s future, and Starship would allow the network to rapidly grow.[3]

0. “An Explosive End For the SpaceX Massive Rocket” Science Friday, 21 Apr. 2023,

1. “SpaceX’s Starship Rocket Explodes Mid-Flight Minutes After Launch” NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth, 20 Apr. 2023,

2. “Starship up close! See giant SpaceX rocket lift off in slo-mo launch tower video”, 21 Apr. 2023,

3. “SpaceX prepares to launch its mammoth rocket ‘Starship’” NPR, 16 Apr. 2023,

4. “Starship launch video captures flying debris and destruction” The Washington Post, 21 Apr. 2023,

5. “Starship Orbital Test Flight Raises Serious Questions” AmericaSpace, 21 Apr. 2023,

6. “Was the SpaceX launch really a ‘success’?” CNN, 21 Apr. 2023,

7. “SpaceX celebrated Starship’s 1st launch. Some locals called it ‘truly terrifying’”, 21 Apr. 2023,

8. “A SpaceX rocket exploded. Here’s why the Space Force remains hopeful.” C4ISRNET, 21 Apr. 2023,