SpaceX Launches (and Crashes) 1st Starship High-Altitude Test Flight

The Starship spacecraft is a massive vehicle meant to take people to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Loren Elliott/Getty Images

On Wednesday, SpaceX launched the latest prototype of its future Mars-colonizing spaceship, Starship, to an altitude of about 8 miles (12.5 kilometers) for the first time in a major test from the rocket company’s Boca Chica test site in southern Texas.

The launch, while successful, ended with an unexpected crash landing, as you can see below. The crash isn’t considered a failure, though it immediately went viral on Twitter.

The first attempt to lift off was aborted at the last second Tuesday afternoon at around 5:30 p.m. due to an engineering problem with one of Starship’s three Raptor engines. A second attempt failed again on Wednesday at 12:30 p.m before a third was deemed a go. You can watch that below.

The suborbital flight test is a key milestone in the Starship project. SpaceX has completed two low-altitude flight tests with previous prototypes (SN5 and SN6) and multiple static fire tests with the new SN8 prototype. Tuesday’s high-altitude test will provide crucial information about how Starship’s three Raptor engines perform during suborbital flight, the spacecraft’s overall aerodynamic entry capabilities and how it manages propellant transition.

A lot of things could go wrong, warned SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. In a Twitter conversation with reporters last week, the entrepreneur said there’s “maybe 1/3 chance” that flight will be successful.

SpaceX Launches (and Crashes) 1st Starship High-Altitude Test Flight