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SpaceX’s Starship rocket blasted off on its first test flight on Thursday but failed minutes after rising from the launch pad.

The two-stage rocket ship, standing taller than the Statue of Liberty at 120 metres high, blasted off from the company’s Starbase spaceport and test facility east of Brownsville, Texas, for what SpaceX hoped, at best, would be a 90-minute debut flight into space.

A live SpaceX webcast of the lift-off showed the rocket ship rising from the launch tower into the morning sky as the Super Heavy’s raptor engines roared to life in a ball of flame and billowing clouds of exhaust and water vapour.

But less than four minutes into the flight, the upper-stage Starship failed to separate as designed from the lower-stage Super Heavy, and the combined vehicle was seen flipping end over end before exploding.

Nevertheless, SpaceX officials on the webcast cheered the feat of getting the fully integrated Starship and booster rocket off the ground for a clean launch and declared the brief episode a successful test flight.

After separating, the spacecraft was supposed to continue east and attempt to circle the world, before crashing into the Pacific near Hawaii.

Despite the explosion, company CEO Elon Musk heralded the test launch.

Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months,” Mr Musk wrote.

The SpaceX company described the event as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation”.

The company plans to use the Starship to send people and cargo to the Moon and, eventually, Mars.

NASA has reserved a Starship for its next moonwalking team, and wealthy tourists are already booking lunar flybys.

It was the second launch attempt. Monday’s try was scrapped by a frozen booster valve.

The stainless steel rocket is designed to be fully reusable with fast turnaround, dramatically lowering costs, similar to what SpaceX’s smaller Falcon rockets have done soaring from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Nothing was to be saved from the test flight.

The futuristic spacecraft flew several kilometres into the air during testing a few years ago, landing successfully only once, but this was to be the inaugural launch of the first-stage booster with 33 methane-fuelled engines.”

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