Despite having appeared to have self-destruct mid-flight during its second test, SpaceX described the Starship rocket as a success, given it marked the craft’s first time making it into space.
The launch was the second attempt for the Starship after an earlier version of the rocket blew up the launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas in April, causing significant damage to the facility and launching a federal investigation.
The Saturday morning launch saw Starship successfully liftoff and separate from its first stage rocket booster. SpaceX lost contact with the craft approximately eight minutes after launch, in the second stage.
“We may have lost the second stage,” lead engineer John Insprucker said on the SpaceX broadcast. “What we do believe right now is that the automated flight termination system appears to have triggered very late in the burn as we were headed downrange over the Gulf of Mexico.”
Insprucker said he was still pleased with the progress of the test.
“We got the hot staging, the thing we really wanted to see,” he said. “It impressed.”
Despite losing contact with the craft, Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, CTO, co-chair and co-founder seemed to have considered the test a success, as well.
“Congratulations team @SpaceX team,” Musk posted to X, formerly Twitter, with a video of the launch.
The flight termination system is a standard safety feature in rockets, destroying the vehicle in the event a problem arises or it flies off course.
The planned course would have seen Starship fly most of the way around the world in low Earth atmosphere before splashing down near Hawaii.
The first stage was also lost after separation, failing to return to the ground as planned. SpaceX hopes its reusable booster technology can reduce launch costs.
The nearly 400-foot craft is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. SpaceX hopes to send NASA astronauts to the moon using a final version of the Starship as soon as 2025.
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