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Starship Launches

UPWARD BOUND The Starship rocket lifts off from the SpaceX spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas, on April 20. ERIC GAY—AP

On April 20, SpaceX launched its first test flight of Starship, the biggest rocket ever built. The 400-foot-tall, stainless steel ship took off from Starbase, a spaceport in southern Texas. No people were on board for this launch.

“I’m not saying it will get to orbit, but I am guaranteeing excitement,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said of the planned launch, in March.

As it turned out, Starship did not get into orbit. The plan was for it to make a 90-minute trip partway around the planet. But about four minutes after liftoff, the rocket exploded. Even so, just getting the rocket off the launchpad was a major success for SpaceX.

For now, the company is focused on getting a Starship rocket ready to take NASA astronauts to the moon by 2025, and eventually, to Mars. It has room for 100 passengers.

SpaceX could make spaceflight a profitable business. Its rockets are designed to be reusable. This will make it less expensive to send everything from people to satellites into space.

For at least a few minutes, people who gathered on nearby South Padre Island to watch the launch got their excitement. As Starship took off, they screamed: “Go, baby, go!”

Stop and Think! Why is the Starship rocket newsworthy? How might it change the space business? What else would you like to learn about Starship?