SpaceX’s second test flight of its Starship rocket was cut short early Saturday after the spacecraft exploded, but the company noted some major improvements over its first attempt last April.

According to The Wall Street Journal, SpaceX lost contact with the spacecraft about 15 minutes after launch from its spaceport, near Brownsville, Texas, around 8 a.m. ET. 

In a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, SpaceX explained that “the booster experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly shortly after stage separation while Starship’s engines fired for several minutes on its way to space.” 

The company said Saturday’s test flight showed advancements for the rocket intended for deep-space missions. Despite the explosion, Starship significantly improved its flight distance in comparison to its initial flight test back in April where separation of the booster rocket and the spacecraft on top of it never occurred. 

“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 multiplanetary,” SpaceX said. 

The FAA confirmed no injuries or property damage resulted from the flight and the agency will participate in an investigation to determine when SpaceX can proceed with another launch, according to the Journal.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.


  1. The usual positive spin on a day that didn’t result in success. However, it appears that the launch platform did okay, and all 33 of the main booster’s engines performed as intended up until separation. Explosion of the booster is not totally unexpected due to the hot staging process which puts a tremendous strain on the top of the booster as the Starship blasts away from it. What is troubling is that the Starship appears to have also exploded when the telemetry suddenly stopped. It appeared to be working normally right up until then, so that is a little puzzling. It will be interesting to see what details they release about that. Back to the drawing board guys.

    • Back to the drawing board implies starting over.
      This is a hardware rich iterative development process. Partial failure is not unexpected, indeed it is a part of the process.
      SpaceX has been open about this flight for some time that they would consider getting to stage separation (testing the new hot-staging system) a success. They went well beyond that today.

      • Lots of nice buzzwords and not much content there. Did you get your talking points from Elmo or one of the SpaceX spin doctors who slurp him? They need an entirely new and better definition of success and the mindless sheep in Elmo’s cult (“he makes rockets so he must be perfect”) need to open your eyes and think for yourselves instead of just parroting his nonsense. Ask the astronauts scheduled to fly on that thing if their definition of success is as elastic as yours.

  2. Oh, look at that! Our little rocket just decided to have a spontaneous self-destruct sequence. How delightful! I’m sure the engineers will be thrilled to hear about this unexpected development. Moving right along…😊

    • Lol, yes. It doesn’t come off as a psychologically normal response to such an event (just like the first one), whether it is truly is expected as part of the process or not. Just smiling and nodding. You get the feeling you’re being brainwashed a bit, to accept some kind of alternate reality. Maybe that’s mainly for the people funding the thing.

      Quite an expensive endeavor, with a ridiculous stated purpose.

  3. You have to give them credit, they take it in stride, and proceed to the next attempt. So long as no one is hurt or killed. keep launching, eventually they will get it right.

    • THAT’S your measure of success? “No one got hurt or killed”? That’s even crazier than Elmo’s measure of just needing to clear the pad. Whatever happened to do things the right way?

      • Yeah, I could live with Roger the Dodger’s definition of success. The space shuttle obviously had loss of life. The O ring failure due to a cold weather launch was a concern that went unheeded. Perhaps Jeff, you would like to add your definition of success so we can judge you on the Elmo scale. Just what is the “right way”?

  4. We’re supposed to know a LOT more now about designing rockets and engines and systems and how to make sure things are even ready to test rather than just “let’s fire this sucker up and see how far it goes this time”.

    They used to make 5-year-old kids work as chimney sweeps and among the machinery in cotton mills, but we’re better than that now. Well, maybe not in states where Huckleberry is governor, but overall, I mean.

  5. First off, it was NOT a failure; all their test objectives were met. All engines running through separation, hot staging sequence, Starship fly-out to engine shut down, both stages FTS, etc. The pad is intact; no flying concrete for the whiners to get up in arms about (It’s inert rock folks…).

    Second, the “Go for extra credit” did produce valuable data; The booster return to base maneuver in particular will provide valuable profile information: It appeared that they rotated too quickly and they lost ullage on a least a couple engines.

    As to the things that went wrong, they still have their stuck oxygen valve issue with the Starship, but that valve was the same as the previous test article. It’s been upgraded in the follow-on ships. We’ll have to wait until FT3 to see if that’s corrected. The Avionics still seems to have issues, so we’ll have to wait for the data analysis.

    This was a success, they just didn’t get the icing on the cake.

    The data pile collected will be a treasure to the engineers!

  6. Werner von Braun once said (paraphrasing), “The dividing line between rocket and bomb is very thin. The better the rocket, the closer to bomb.”

  7. “I keep hoping someone will ask the astronauts scheduled to fly on that thing if they define success the same way Elmo does.”

    As I mentioned above, astronauts (and tourists) are already betting their lives on what Elon (fixed that for you) defines as success.

  8. Has Elon (also fixed that) blown up some hardware? Yep. Has he also accomplished more in space travel in far less time? Yep also. If each launch remained the same, or worse, I’d say the company is an idiot. But they learn from failures. Like we all did as tiny humans. And still do. You can be assured that there will be no astronauts aboard until they are very sure it is as safe as can be made (see Ed Fix’s comment above).

  9. Call me “Old School”, but all the Child like screaming in the background when something happens as planned, makes the whole thing seem like it’s being controlled by a bunch of school children. Definitely not the Professional environment that I would expect.

    • Perhaps, but look at the videos of the controllers at JPL when they stick the landing of a probe on Mars, or the launch crews for Ariane when they successfully put the Web telescope into space. SpaceX is staffed with a bunch of young people who have bought into the philosophy and like to share their enthusiasm with each other during the launch parties. Musk is following a process similar to Werner von Braun developing the V2 rocket. His failures were spectacular and numerous at first, but in the end he built a solid, reliable vehicle. Musk did the same with the Falcon 9 and the Falcon heavy, and is now moving on to Starship. Unlike Boeing and the other commercial companies, who are still using the old, expendable Atlas and Delta rockets developed back in the 1960s.

      • To add, this is not like “hey, we got new tires on our car” but rather a huge and incredible occurrence. I’m sure most all of us don’t understand the complexity of the machine and the launch. I AM an old fart but cheer on every launch!

  10. I used to tell the young engineers that worked for me, who would become discouraged when a design didn’t work, engineering is always an iterative process. This is not stressed in engineering school. In fact when I went to engineering school it wasn’t until last semester that we were given a design case study that showed that all the theory we had learned was not enough to fully understand what would actually happen in the “real world”. Back then we only had our trusty K&E Log Log Decitrig slipsticks to crunch the numbers, but even today, when designers can use CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) to simulate the real world with incredible detail, designers still build scale models and put them in wind tunnels to see if their calculations are accurate. The bottom line is that there will always be iterations in the design process, and some of them will be painful to watch, but they do lead to a working final design.

    BTW, am I the only person who thinks that “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” would be a great name for a grunge band?

    • A humble suggestion to all those critical of SpaceX and Elon Musk, take a trip to South Texas and have a look at the StarBase, or better yet go watch a StarShip launch. As you stand next to the launch pad and that incredible 400 foot tall ship that will soon take humans out of earth orbit for the first time in 50 years you will be impressed, I guarantee it.

      What SpaceX has accomplished in 20 short years is remarkable. Musk’s relentless drive to rapidly develop new rocket technologies and reduce costs of payload to orbit is the envy of national space programs, including NASA. SpaceX with its reusable rockets has lowered launch costs by multiple factors, it builds much of its own hardware and components including the human rated Dragon orbital vehicle.

      It was the SpaceX Dragon vehicle and Falcon 9 rocket that sent Americans back to space after a 10 long year hiatus, we had been paying the Russians to do it! SpaceX is currently launching a world wide satellite internet constellation and Musk has given the Ukrainians access to that StarLink system to help them defend their country. SpaceX also does critical launches for the Space Force that ensure our national security.

      One last point. Without a dime of taxpayer money Musk placed a fortune at risk to develop the Falcon rocket and was one launch failure away from the almost certain bankruptcy of SpaceX. Thankfully he persisted and now SpaceX is rewriting the book on rocket technology and human space flight. We all benefit immensely from Musks rare genius and admirable ambitions.

  11. It takes deep pockets to develop a new launch platform. The comments here illustrate exactly why Musk OWNS the global launch business.

    When the development process is governed by politics and keeping all the political shareholders from freaking out and defunding you – spectacular events like the rocket blowing up right away are unthinkable – so literally billions of dollars are spent engineering all the details out to the 15th decimal place before launching. Of course all this extreme caution takes years – AND it leads to extreme risk adversity.

    Musk’s approach clearly shows the faster/better/cheaper way. Take big risks, engineer it to a point where it will probably work, instrument the heck out of it, and give it a try. Inherent in this process is the ability to take bigger risks, it’s impossible to exactly predict how all of the variables coalesce into reality when you’re truly out on the cutting edge and there’s no actual real-world data to work from. The limited success missions pay off big in the data that they return.

    So while the peanut gallery applauds the often spectacular results that NASA has unarguably achieved, they ignore the hundreds of billions of dollars that went in preparing for those missions – all in the name of achieving a near-perfect result on the first try.

    Musk owns the launch business because the Falcon’s (which used to blow up quite spectacularly) can now to that AMAZING synchronized side by side landing after a heavy launch – and be turned around to launch again and again – making it possible to launch payloads for a fraction of the cost of using the throw-away rockets that NASA was forced to keep using because of the requisite optics of perfection inherent in political funding.

    In a few years Starship launches will be commonplace and safe (by spacecraft standards anyway!) and SpaceX will continue to be the obvious choice for putting payloads into orbit.

    What will the long term legacy of NASA’s SLS be?