SpaceX’s Starship mega rocket launched on a test flight from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas on Saturday, November 18, 2023. AP Photo/Eric Gay
SpaceX launched its Starship mega rocket, but lost both the booster and the spacecraft in a pair of explosions minutes after Saturday’s test flight.
The rocket reached space after liftoff from South Texas, but communications were suddenly lost. SpaceX officials said it appears the ship’s self-destruct system blew it up over the Gulf of Mexico.
The flight was coming to an end as the ship’s engines were almost ready to send it on its way around the world. The first test flight in April also ended in an explosion.
On Saturday, about three minutes into the flight, a separate booster also exploded over the bay. By then, however, his work was done.
Despite the failure, the flight of about eight minutes lasted twice as long as the April test. At nearly 400 feet (121 meters), Starship is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, with the goal of transporting humans to the Moon and Mars.
“The real icing on the cake today, that successful liftoff,” said SpaceX commentator John Insprucker.
Commentator Kate Tice added: “We have so much data and it will all help us improve for our next flight.”
SpaceX founder Elon Musk watched from behind launch controllers at the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border, near Boca Chica Beach. At the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California, employees cheered as the Starship finally took off at dawn. The room fell silent as it became clear that the spaceship had been destroyed and had crashed into the bay. Booster also ended up in the bay.
SpaceX aimed for an altitude of 150 miles (240 kilometers), just high enough to send the bullet-shaped spacecraft around the world before plunging into the Pacific near Hawaii about 1-2 hours after liftoff, less than a full orbit.
After a demonstration flight in April, SpaceX did dozens of improvements to the booster and its 33 engines as well as to the launch pad. The Federal Aviation Administration cleared the rocket for flight on Wednesday, after certifying that all safety and environmental requirements were met.
The Associated Press Health and Science Division is supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media Group. AP is solely responsible for all content.