SpaceX’s unmanned Starship spacecraft, designed for transporting astronauts to the moon and beyond, faced a setback on Saturday during its second test flight, following an initial attempt that ended in an explosion. The two-stage rocket launched from SpaceX’s Starbase facility near Boca Chica in Texas, reaching an altitude of about 55 miles (90 km) on its planned 90-minute space journey. However, the Super Heavy first stage booster, while successfully separating from its core stage, experienced an explosion over the Gulf of Mexico shortly after detachment.
Simultaneously, the primary Starship booster continued its trajectory into space. However, approximately 10 minutes into the flight, a SpaceX mission control broadcaster reported an abrupt loss of contact with the vehicle.
Speaking about the explosion SpaceX wrote on its official handle on X, “The booster experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly shortly after stage separation while Starship’s engines fired for several minutes on its way to space…”
“With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multiplanetary…” it added.
During Saturday’s launch, a live SpaceX webcast captured the rocketship ascending from the launch tower into the morning sky, powered by the vigorous Raptor engines of the Super Heavy booster.
The primary goal of the test flight was to successfully lift Starship off the ground, propelling it into space just below Earth’s orbit. This milestone represented a crucial advancement in SpaceX’s pursuit of creating a versatile spacecraft capable of transporting both people and cargo. The long-term vision includes using this spacecraft to return to the moon in the coming decade for NASA and, eventually, to embark on missions to Mars.
NASA, as SpaceX’s primary customer, holds a significant interest in the success of Starship. The U.S. space agency is relying on Starship to play a pivotal role in its human spaceflight program, Artemis, which follows the Apollo missions from over half a century ago that achieved the historic feat of landing astronauts on the moon for the first time.
(With inputs from Reuters)