On April 20, a fully stacked Starship launched for the first time from SpaceX’s facility at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The rocket was the largest and most powerful ever built, measuring 394 feet (120 meters) tall, and featured a 165-foot-tall (50 m) upper stage.
The rocket was expected to separate from the Super Heavy first stage three minutes after launch, but the two remained connected. Consequently, the stack began to tumble, exploding after four minutes in what SpaceX referred to as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.” The employees at SpaceX celebrated the launch despite the rocket’s destruction, which was intentional.
The goal was to test the vehicle and gather data. The launch aimed to get Starship to a maximum altitude of 145 miles (233 km) and bring it back to Earth for a trial-by-fire reentry, ending with a hard splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. However, the company wasn’t expecting everything to work out, and the goal was to respond appropriately to whatever happened.