SpaceX’s advanced spacecraft, Starship, designed for future astronaut missions to the moon and beyond, underwent a repeated test launch from southern Texas on Saturday. However, shortly after reaching space, the launch appeared to have experienced a failure.
“We have lost the data from the second stage… we think we may have lost the second stage,” a SpaceX announcer said.
“Such an incredibly successful day,” an announcer later said. “Even though we did have a… rapid unscheduled disassembly of both the super heavy booster and the ship.”
SpaceX posted video of the Starship launch on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. The rocket took off successfully, but Starship’s booster exploded shortly after it separated from the ship. The rest of the spacecraft appeared to continue on track.
The SpaceX commentator said that the company had received data that will help it improve for the next launch.
Following Saturday’s test flight, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said there were no injuries or damage to property. The FAA added that they would launch an investigation into what went wrong with the latest test launch.
What changes did SpaceX make ahead of the launch?
The first attempt to launch the massive two-part rocket system, which consists of the Starship spacecraft and a Super Heavy booster, measuring a combined 397 feet (121 meters), failed spectacularly back in April when the rocket blew up four minutes after launch.
SpaceX owner Elon Musk said that an internal fire damaged Starship’s engines and computers, causing it to stray off course, and that an automatic-destruct command was activated some 40 seconds too late.
Back on the ground, the launch pad was shattered by the force of the blast-off, which also sparked a 3.5-acre (1.4-hectare) brush fire, although no-one was injured.
Since then, the launch pad has been reinforced with a massive water-cooled steel plate, one of dozens of corrective measures that the US Federal Aviation Administration required before granting a launch license on Wednesday for the second test flight.
The primary mission objective this time around is to get Starship off the ground in Texas and into space, just shy of reaching orbit, before plunging back through Earth’s atmosphere for a splashdown off the coast of Hawaii.
Starship’s towering first-stage booster, propelled by 33 Raptor engines, produces 16.7 million pounds (74.3 meganewtons) of thrust, making it twice as powerful as the Saturn V rocket that sent the Apollo astronauts to the moon half a century ago.
How are SpaceX and NASA working together?
The launch, which had been scheduled for Friday but was pushed back by a day for a last-minute swap of flight-control hardware, is vital for both Musk ultimately wants to use Starship to colonize Mars, and SpaceX’s biggest customer NASA, which is aiming to return humans to the moon by the end of the decade.