SpaceX's Starship completed its first fully integrated launch before exploding

The rocket failed to separate from its booster.

SpaceX, YouTube

SpaceX has finally completed its first fully integrated Starship flight test after months of delays and a scrubbed launch earlier in the week, albeit not as smoothly as it would have like. The combination of Starship and a Super Heavy booster lifted off from SpaceX's Boca Chica, Texas facility at 9:34AM Eastern after a brief hold, but failed to separate and tumbled down in a botched flip maneuver before exploding.

CEO Elon Musk previously told enthusiasts to temper their expectations. The Starship flight was meant to collect data for future boosted trips. As SpaceX explained during its livestream, clearing the launchpad was the only objective — anything beyond that was just a bonus. The company scrubbed the first attempt due to a frozen pressurant valve.

SpaceX hasn't yet said when it expects to conduct its next flight attempt. The outfit says it can produce more than one Starship at a time, so the delay won't necessarily be lengthy.

Starship and Super Heavy together are 394 feet tall, or taller than the Saturn V rocket. The 39 total Raptor engines (33 in the booster, six in Starship) are powerful enough to haul payloads up to 330,000lbs to low Earth orbit when fully reusable, and 550,000lbs when expendable. For context, even Falcon Heavy can bring 'just' 141,000lbs to that orbit. The new rocketry allows missions that simply weren't possible before, including eventual trips to the Moon and Mars that require extensive fuel and supplies.

Success with the next test is vital given the timing for both SpaceX's own plans and NASA's exploration efforts. SpaceX is counting on Starship for lunar tourism and other commercial flights. NASA's Artemis Moon landings, currently slated to start in December 2025, will depend on the rocket for reaching the surface and returning astronauts to the Orion capsule for the trip home. The sooner SpaceX can prove Starship is viable, the better its chances of minimizing further delays.