Subscribe now


SpaceX’s Starship created a volcano-like explosion in first launch

The Starship rocket destroyed its launch pad during its first launch attempt in 2023, and the explosion resembled a powerful volcanic eruption, spraying sand and chunks of debris over a huge area

By Leah Crane

21 March 2024

Debris around the Space X Starship launch pad

Debris left by the explosion of the SpaceX Starship launch pad in Texas on 22 April 2023

UPI/Alamy Live News

When SpaceX’s Starship rocket launched for the first time in 2023, it destroyed its launch pad in an explosion similar to a volcanic eruption that sent huge chunks of concrete high into the sky. Understanding the blast in detail could help us design more robust launch and landing pads for future missions to the moon and Mars.

“It was eye-opening to us that launch pads could explode so violently,” says Philip Metzger

Sign up to our weekly newsletter

Receive a weekly dose of discovery in your inbox! We'll also keep you up to date with New Scientist events and special offers.

Sign up

To continue reading, subscribe today with our introductory offers

View introductory offers

No commitment, cancel anytime*

Offer ends 2nd of July 2024.

*Cancel anytime within 14 days of payment to receive a refund on unserved issues.

Inclusive of applicable taxes (VAT)


Existing subscribers

Sign in to your account