Like a mighty firecracker, Starship, the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, blew up today, 4 minutes into its first attempt to reach space. After sailing into the skies above Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceX’s 119-meter rocket tumbled and exploded after its upper stage failed to separate from its booster.

Despite the setback, CEO Elon Musk remained cheerful on Twitter and looked ahead to another attempt in a few months. Success, when and if it comes, will represent a major leap for SpaceX, which has already transformed the space industry with cheap and frequent launches of its smaller Falcon 9 rocket. Starship is expected to carry at least 100 tons to low-Earth orbit, on par with the Saturn V rocket that took people to the Moon during NASA’s Apollo program. Musk has said he hopes to eventually fly Starship three times a day for as little $1 million a launch.

Such prospects have whetted the appetites of not just explorers and entrepreneurs, but also space scientists. “Its capabilities are just unprecedented,” says Jennifer Heldmann, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center, who believes the giant rocket could accelerate research on the Moon and Mars. Laura Forczyk, who owns the space consulting firm Astralytical, says Starship is “the first step toward reinventing science payloads.”

Musk first unveiled the Starship concept in 2016 as a means of getting people to Mars. It was designed for in-orbit refueling by other Starships, which enables its 100-ton payloads to be sent along to the Moon, Mars, or beyond from low-Earth orbit. Its 33 Raptor engines burn methane, which in theory could be replenished through the synthesis of water and carbon dioxide, both plentiful on Mars. To keep costs down, both the rocket’s Super Heavy booster and its upper stage (also known as Starship) were designed to return to Earth for rapid reuse.

Now that the rocket is inching toward maturity, calls are growing for astronomers and planetary scientists to take advantage of it. “Having literally tons of [payload] mass available means you can change the whole way you think about payload and spacecraft design,” says Martin Elvis, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. For example, if NASA’s JWST space telescope had been launched within Starship’s 8-meter-wide fairing, its 6.5-meter mirror would not have needed folding.

Mission planners could also be less fastidious about weight. In the past, engineers might have argued about how to shave tenths of a gram from multiton probes. With Starship, Heldmann says, “instead of miniaturizing your lab-scale instrument, just send the lab instrument. Send three of them if you want.” Humanity currently lofts roughly 500 tons of cargo to space every year, says Casey Handmer, a software engineer who used to work at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “Starship could do that with five launches.”

With frequent Starship flights, researchers could build large constellations of Earth-observing satellites, Forczyk says. The vehicle could also haul copies of a particular mission into space, lowering the risk of failure and driving savings through economies of scale. “What if you had 10 Voyager-like probes sent in different directions?” Forczyk asks.

That’s all assuming, of course, that the rocket turns out as planned. To achieve Musk’s cut-rate prices, Starship will need to launch often—far more often than the demand from government agencies like NASA and the Department of Defense could ever sustain. For now, that thrice daily launch rate is most likely “just marketing hype,” says Krystal Azelton, director of the Space Applications Programs at the Secure World Foundation.

Initially, SpaceX has a dedicated customer: itself. It plans to use Starship to build out a constellation of tens of thousands of its Starlink satellites to blanket the globe in broadband internet. Figuring out what could fill up Starship launches after that is anybody’s guess. Investment bank Morgan Stanley forecasts the space economy growing from $350 billion today to $1 trillion by 2040, driven mostly by satellite internet demand as well as cheaper rockets and satellites.

Pierre Lionnet, a space economist at industry trade group Eurospace, remains skeptical about that growth. Aside from Starlink, he says, launch demand hasn’t risen substantially since the 1990s, despite falling launch costs.

Even if the Starship ends up pricier than the Falcon 9, which costs about $67 million per launch, it would still be a bargain compared with heavy-lift rockets such as NASA’s Space Launch System, which costs billions of dollars per launch. Many scoffed when SpaceX said it would be able to lower Falcon 9 launch costs by pioneering reusability. Elvis says it would be prudent to be ready for Starship’s success. “Because if it’s going to work, it will be revolutionary.”