SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded on its first test flight. The largest and most powerful rocket ever built took off as planned on Thursday from the SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. The unmanned rocket detonated just over three minutes after launch, as live footage showed. At this point, the first stage of propulsion, called Super Heavy, should have separated from the Starship space shuttle.

SpaceX spoke in the short message service Twitter of a “rapid unplanned breakup before the stage separation”. “Teams will continue to evaluate data and work towards our next flight test,” added tech billionaire Elon Musk’s company. “In a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability.” SpaceX spoke of an “exciting” test flight.

The test flight had been eagerly awaited. A first attempt to start was aborted on Monday due to technical problems a few minutes before the start.

The 120 meter high Starship rocket system consists of a 70 meter high first propulsion stage called Super Heavy and a 50 meter long space shuttle with additional propulsion. The US space agency Nasa has selected Starship to fly humans to the moon again for the first time in more than 50 years on the Artemis 3 mission at the end of 2025. Even flights to Mars and beyond should be possible with the rocket. During the test flight, the first rocket stage should have crashed into the Gulf of Mexico after the separation. The Starship space shuttle was to fly to an altitude of more than 150 kilometers, orbit almost the entire earth, and then fall into the Pacific.