EspaceX launched its Starship mega-rocket, but lost both the booster and the spacecraft in two explosions minutes after Saturday’s test flight.
The rocket reached space after taking off from south Texas, but communication was suddenly lost. SpaceX officials said it appears the ship’s self-destruct system caused it to explode over the Gulf of Mexico.
The flight ended just as the ship’s engines were almost finished starting to put it on a path around the world. The first test flight in April also ended in an explosion.
On Saturday, about three minutes into the flight, the separate booster also exploded over the Gulf. But at that point, his job was done.
Despite the failure, the approximately eight-minute flight took twice as long as the April test. At nearly 400 feet (121 meters), Starship is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, with the goal of carrying people to the Moon and Mars.
“The real icing on the cake today was this successful liftoff,” said SpaceX commentator John Insprucker.
Commentator Kate Tice added: “We got so much data, and it will all help us improve for our next flight. »
SpaceX founder Elon Musk looked behind launch controllers at the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border near Boca Chica Beach. At the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, employees cheered as Starship finally took off at dawn. The room fell silent once it was clear that the spaceship had been destroyed and crashed into the gulf. The booster also ended up in the Gulf.
SpaceX aimed for an altitude of 150 miles (240 kilometers), just high enough to send the bullet-shaped spacecraft around the globe before splashing into the Pacific near Hawaii about an hour and a half after liftoff, or one orbit complete.
After the April flight demonstration, SpaceX achieved dozens of improvements to the booster and its 33 engines as well as the launch pad. The Federal Aviation Administration cleared the rocket for flight Wednesday, after confirming that all safety and environmental concerns had been met.
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