BOCA CHICA, Texas, Nov 18 (Reuters) – SpaceX’s unmanned Starship spacecraft, developed to carry astronauts to the Moon and beyond, reportedly failed in space minutes after liftoff on Saturday during its second test , after his first attempt ended in an explosion.
The two-stage rocket lifted off from the Elon Musk-owned company’s Starbase launch site near Boca Chica, Texas, propelling the Starship spacecraft about 55 miles (90 km) above the ground on a planned 90-minute flight in the space.
But the rocket’s Super Heavy first stage booster, although it appeared to make a crucial maneuver to separate from its main stage from the Starship, exploded over the Gulf of Mexico shortly after detachment, the show showed. a SpaceX webcast.
Meanwhile, the Starship’s main booster moved farther toward space, but minutes later, a company broadcaster said SpaceX mission control had suddenly lost contact with the vehicle.
“We lost the data from the second stage… we think we may have lost the second stage,” said John Insprucker, host of the SpaceX livestream.
About eight minutes into the test mission, a view from the camera tracking the Starship’s thruster appeared to show an explosion that would suggest the vehicle was malfunctioning at that time. The rocket’s altitude was 91 miles (148 km).
It was the second attempt to fly a Starship mounted atop its massive Super Heavy rocket booster, following an attempt in April that ended in an explosive failure about four minutes after liftoff.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial launch sites, confirmed that an accident occurred that “resulted in the loss of the vehicle,” adding that no injuries or property damage were reported. reported.
The agency said it will oversee an investigation by SpaceX into the test failure and will need to approve SpaceX’s plan to prevent it from happening again.
The objective of the mission was to launch the Starship in Texas and send it into space just before reaching orbit, then plunging into Earth’s atmosphere for a splashdown off the coast of Hawaii . The launch was scheduled for Friday but was pushed back a day due to a last-minute swap of flight control hardware.
The ignition of the Starship’s 33 Raptor engines sent a shockwave through the launch facilities at SpaceX’s Starbase moments before the rocket system began to gradually rise into the morning sky, clearing its launch tower in a thunderous ascent into space.
At approximately 70 km altitude, the rocket system performed the crucial maneuver to separate the two stages, with the Super Heavy booster set to plunge into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico while the Starship’s main booster exploded further into the sea. space using its own engines. .
But Super Heavy blew up, and SpaceX has yet to detail the fate of the main stage.
SpaceX, in a post on social media platform X, said the Starship’s core stage engines “fired for several minutes en route 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,” the company said.
A successful test would have marked a key step toward realizing SpaceX’s ambition to produce a large, multipurpose spacecraft capable of returning people and cargo to the Moon later this decade for NASA, and ultimately to Mars.
Musk – founder, CEO and chief engineer of SpaceX – also sees Starship as potentially replacing the Falcon 9 rocket, the centerpiece of its launch business, which already carries most of the world’s satellites and other commercial payloads around the world. ‘space.
NASA, SpaceX’s main customer, has a considerable interest in the success of Starship, in which the American space agency intends to play a central role in its human spaceflight program, Artemis, successor to the Apollo missions of more half a century that put astronauts on the Moon for the first time.
During its April 20 test flight, the spacecraft exploded less than four minutes into a planned 90-minute flight. This flight went wrong from the start, with some engines failing on takeoff. A fire inside the rocket ultimately caused the rocket’s stage separation to fail, Musk had said.
Reporting by Joe Skipper in Boca Chica, Texas, Joey Roulette in Washington and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Will Dunham and Ros Russell
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