Shortly after taking off on Saturday, SpaceX’s unmanned spaceship Starship—designed to transport humans to the moon and beyond—failed in orbit, ending its second test but progressing beyond the first, which ended in an explosion.
The Elon Musk-owned company’s Starbase launch facility near Boca Chica, Texas, saw the two-stage rocketship blast off, assisting in the Starship spacecraft’s ascent to a height of 90 miles (148 km) above Earth during a scheduled ninety-minute test journey to space and back.
However, a SpaceX livestream revealed that the rocket’s Super Heavy first stage booster detonated over the Gulf of Mexico not long after separating, despite having successfully executed a critical manoeuvre to separate from its core Starship stage. A few minutes later, a corporate broadcaster claimed that SpaceX mission control abruptly lost touch with the vehicle as the main Starship stage continued to rocket into orbit.
SpaceX engineer and webcast host John Insprucker stated, “We have lost the data from the second stage… we think we may have lost the second stage.” Although the cause remained unknown, he said, engineers think an automatic flight termination instruction was issued to kill the rocket.
A video image following the Starship booster appeared to show an explosion around eight minutes into the test mission, indicating that the vehicle may have failed at that point. The rocket was 91 miles (148 km) above the ground.