SpaceX’s unmanned spacecraft Starship designed to transport astronauts to the moon and beyond failed in space shortly after taking off on Saturday, ending its second test but progressing beyond the first, which ended in an explosion.
The two-stage rocketship blasted off from the Elon Musk-owned company’s Starbase launch site near Boca Chica in Texas, helping boost the Starship spacecraft as high as 90 miles (148 km) above ground on a planned 90-minute test mission to space and back.
However, a SpaceX livestream revealed that the rocket’s Super Heavy first stage booster exploded over the Gulf of Mexico not long after separating, despite having successfully executed a critical maneuver to separate with its core Starship stage.
Meanwhile, the core Starship stage boosted further toward space, but a few minutes later a company broadcaster said that SpaceX mission control suddenly lost contact with the vehicle.
“We have lost the data from the second stage… we think we may have lost the second stage,” SpaceX engineer and livestream host John Insprucker said. He added that engineers believe an automated flight termination command was triggered to destroy the rocket, though the reason was unclear.
About eight minutes into the test mission, a camera view tracking the Starship booster appeared to show an explosion that suggested the vehicle failed at that time. The rocket’s altitude was 91 miles (148 km).
Launched in April, the first attempt to fly Starship atop its massive Super Heavy rocket booster terminated in an explosion roughly four minutes after liftoff. This was the second attempt to do so.