SpaceX giant rocket Starship explodes minutes after launch from Texas

South Padre Island, Texas: SpaceX’s giant new rocket exploded minutes after blasting off on it first test flight and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.

Elon Musk’s company was aiming to send the nearly 120-metre Starship rocket on a round-the-world trip from the southern tip of Texas, near the Mexican border. It carried no people or satellites.

SpaceX’s Starship launches from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX’s Starship launches from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.Credit: AP

Images showed multiple engines weren’t working on the 33-engine rocket as it climbed from the launch pad, reaching as high as 39 kilometres.

The flight plan had called for the booster to peel away from the spacecraft minutes after liftoff, but that didn’t happen. On Thursday (US time), the rocket began to tumble and then exploded four minutes into the flight, plummeting into the gulf.

After separating, the spacecraft was supposed to continue east and attempt to circle the world, before crashing into the Pacific near Hawaii.

Throngs of spectators watched from South Padre Island, several miles away from the Boca Chica Beach launch site, which was off limits. As it lifted off, the crowd screamed: “Go, baby, go!”

SpaceX’s Starship after blast off.

SpaceX’s Starship after blast off.Credit: AP

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

In the weeks leading up to the flight, Musk gave 50-50 odds that the spacecraft would reach orbit.

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