The SpaceX Starship launch failed minutes after arriving in space

The SpaceX Starship launch failed minutes after arriving in space

BOCA CHICA, Texas/NEW YORK (Reuters) – SpaceX’s unmanned Starship spacecraft, developed to carry astronauts to the moon and beyond, failed in space shortly after launch on Saturday, cutting short its second test but… Make it beyond just a test. A previous attempt ended in an explosion.

The two-stage spacecraft lifted off from Elon Musk’s Starbase launch site near Boca Chica, Texas, helping boost the Starship spacecraft up to 90 miles (148 km) above Earth’s surface on a planned 90-minute test mission to Space and beyond.

But the Super Heavy rocket’s first stage booster, even though it made a critical maneuver to separate from its core stage from the spacecraft, exploded over the Gulf of Mexico shortly after separating, a SpaceX webcast showed.

Meanwhile, the spacecraft’s primary stage moved toward space, but a few minutes later, a company announcer said that SpaceX’s mission control center suddenly lost contact with the vehicle.

“We’ve lost data from the second stage… We think we may have lost the second stage,” said John Innsbrucker, a SpaceX engineer and live stream host. He added that engineers believe an automated command to end the flight was issued to destroy the missile, although the reason is unclear.

About eight minutes into the test mission, a camera view tracking the spacecraft’s booster appeared to show an explosion indicating the vehicle had failed at that time. The rocket’s altitude was 91 miles (148 km).

The launch was the second attempt to fly the combined spacecraft atop its towering Super Heavy rocket booster, following an attempt in April that ended in explosive failure about four minutes after liftoff.

The US Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial launch sites, confirmed that an unfortunate accident had occurred “resulting in the loss of the vehicle,” adding that no injuries or property damage had been reported.

The agency said it would oversee a SpaceX-led investigation into the test failure and would need to approve SpaceX’s plan to prevent it from happening again.

The mission’s goal was to get the spacecraft off the ground in Texas and into space before it reaches orbit, then dive into Earth’s atmosphere to land off the coast of Hawaii. The launch was scheduled to take place on Friday but was postponed by a day for a last-minute exchange of flight controls.

Test failed

The spacecraft’s failure to meet all of its testing objectives could be a setback for SpaceX. The FAA will need to review the investigation into the company’s failure and review its application for a new launch license. SpaceX officials have complained that such regulatory reviews take too long.

On the other hand, the failure of the program on which SpaceX plans to spend nearly $2 billion this year was in keeping with the company’s risk-tolerant culture that embraces rapid testing and retesting of prototypes to accelerate improvements in design and engineering.

“More things worked than in the previous test, including some new capabilities that were important,” said Karissa Christensen, CEO of space analytics company BryceTech.

“There’s no money and patience to do unlimited tests, but for a very different and very large car, two, three, four or five tests is not excessive,” Christensen said.

At an altitude of approximately 43 miles (70 km), the rocket system executed a critical maneuver to separate the two stages — something it failed to do in the last test — as the super-heavy booster was aimed to plunge into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico while the rocket’s core was in gear. The spacecraft’s booster blasts into space using its own engines.

But the super-heavy booster exploded moments later, followed by the explosion of the spacecraft stage. “Success comes from what we learn,” SpaceX said in a post on the social media platform X, adding that the Starship’s core stage engines “fired for several minutes on its way into space.”

A fully successful test would have been a major step toward realizing SpaceX’s ambition to produce a large, multi-purpose spacecraft capable of sending people and cargo to the Moon later this decade for NASA, and eventually to Mars.

SpaceX’s worker safety culture, which supports an ethos of rapid development, is facing scrutiny from lawmakers after a Reuters investigation documented hundreds of injuries at the rocket company’s U.S. manufacturing and launch sites.

The clock is ticking

NASA, SpaceX’s main customer, has a big stake in the success of Starship, which the US space agency is counting on to play a central role in landing humans on the moon over the next few years under the Artemis human spaceflight programme, the successor to the human space programme. Apollo missions.

NASA chief Bill Nelson, who has made competition with China a key need for speed on Artemis, said Saturday’s spacecraft test was “an opportunity to learn — and then fly again.”

Musk — founder, CEO and chief engineer of SpaceX — sees Starship eventually replacing the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket as the cornerstone of the launch business that already launches most of the world’s satellites and other commercial payloads into space.

“The clock is ticking,” said Chad Anderson, a SpaceX investor and managing partner at venture capital firm Space Capital. “NASA has a schedule where they’re trying to get to the moon, and this is their primary vehicle to do that. So SpaceX needs to deliver on a schedule.”

Garrett Matthews, CEO of lunar rover startup Astrolab that has reserved space on a future Starship flight, toured SpaceX’s Starbase site earlier this year and said he expects the company to quickly resume testing after Saturday’s flight.

Although it is expected that this pace will be largely driven by the FAA’s review and the extent of Starship’s technical failures.

“They have the next batch of vehicles already lined up at the factory ready to go,” he said. “I think people will be shocked at the rhythm that emerges next year.”

(Reporting by Joe Skipper in Boca Chica, Texas, Joey Roulette in New York and Steve Gorman in Los Angeles – Prepared by Muhammad for the Arabic Bulletin) Editing by Will Dunham, Ross Russell and Diane Kraft

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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