SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

SpaceX loses mega rocket near completion of third test flight

Mar 14, 2024, 2:32 PM | Updated: 2:33 pm

Smoke and fire in early morning darkness...

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS - MARCH 14: The SpaceX Starship Flight 3 Rocket launches at the Starbase facility on March 14, 2024 in Brownsville, Texas. The operation is SpaceX's third attempt at launching this rocket into space. The Starship Flight 3 rocket becomes the world's largest rocket launched into space and is vital to NASA's plans for landing astronauts on the Moon and Elon Musk's hopes of eventually colonizing Mars. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

(Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

SpaceX came close to completing an hourlong test flight of its mega rocket on its third try Thursday, but the spacecraft was lost as it descended back to Earth.

The company said it lost contact with Starship as it neared its goal, a splashdown in the Indian Ocean. The first-stage booster also ended up in pieces, breaking apart much earlier in the flight over the Gulf of Mexico after launching from the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border.

“The ship has been lost. So no splashdown today,” said SpaceX’s Dan Huot. “But again, it’s incredible to see how much further we got this time around.”

 

Post by @nbcnews
View on Threads

 

Two test flights last year both ended in explosions minutes after liftoff. By surviving for close to 50 minutes this time, Thursday’s effort was considered a win by not only SpaceX’s Elon Musk, but NASA as well as Starship soared higher and farther than ever before.

The space agency is counting on Starship to land its astronauts on the moon in another few years.

The nearly 400-foot (121-meter) Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, headed out over the Gulf of Mexico after liftoff Thursday morning, flying east. Spectators crowded the nearby beaches in South Padre Island and Mexico.

A few minutes later, the booster separated seamlessly from the spaceship, but broke apart 1,500 feet (462 meters) above the gulf, instead of plummeting into the water intact. By then, the spacecraft was well to the east and continuing upward, with no people or satellites on board.

 

Post by @thesheetztweetz
View on Threads

 

Starship reached an altitude of about 145 miles (233 kilometers) as it coasted across the Atlantic and South Africa, before approaching the Indian Ocean. But 49 minutes into the flight — with just 15 minutes remaining — all contact was lost and the spacecraft presumably broke apart.

At that point, it was 40 miles (65 kilometers) high and traveling around 16,000 mph (25,700 kph).

SpaceX’s Elon Musk had just congratulated his team a little earlier. “SpaceX has come a long way,” he said via X, formerly called Twitter. The rocket company was founded exactly 22 years ago Thursday.

NASA watched with keen interest: The space agency needs Starship to succeed in order to land astronauts on the moon in the next two or so years. This new crop of moonwalkers — the first since last century’s Apollo program — will descend to the lunar surface in a Starship after transferring from NASA’s Orion capsule in lunar orbit.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson quickly congratulated SpaceX on what he called a successful test flight as part of the space agency’s Artemis moon-landing program.

The stainless steel, bullet-shaped spacecraft launched atop a first-stage booster known as the Super Heavy. Both the booster and the spacecraft are designed to be reusable, although they were never meant to be salvaged Thursday.

On Starship’s inaugural launch last April, several of the booster’s 33 methane-fueled engines failed and the booster did not separate from the spacecraft, causing the entire vehicle to explode and crash into the gulf four minutes after liftoff.

SpaceX managed to double the length of the flight during November’s trial run. While all 33 engines fired and the booster peeled away as planned, the flight ended in a pair of explosions, first the booster and then the spacecraft.

The Federal Aviation Administration reviewed all the corrections made to Starship, before signing off on Thursday’s launch. The FAA said after the flight that it would again investigate what happened. As during the second flight, all 33 booster engines performed well during ascent, according to SpaceX.

Initially, SpaceX plans to use the mammoth rockets to launch the company’s Starlink internet satellites, as well as other spacecraft. Test pilots would follow to orbit, before the company flies wealthy clients around the moon and back. Musk considers the moon a stepping stone to Mars, his ultimate quest.

NASA is insisting that an empty Starship land successfully on the moon, before future moonwalkers climb aboard. The space agency is targeting the end of 2026 for the first moon landing crew under the Artemis program, named after the mythological twin sister of Apollo.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

KSL 5 TV Live

Science & Technology

A graphic shows what a lava lake, called Loki Patera, may look like on the surface of Jupiter's moo...

Ashley Strickland, CNN

Unprecedented images reveal jaw-dropping features of Jupiter’s ‘tortured moon’

Close flybys of Io, one of Jupiter’s moons and the most volcanically active world in our solar system, have revealed a lava lake and a towering feature called “Steeple Mountain” on the moon’s alien surface.

1 day ago

An artist's illustration depicts Voyager 1 as it travels through interstellar space, or the space b...

Ashley Strickland, CNN

Voyager 1 is sending data back to Earth for the first time in 5 months

For the first time in five months, NASA engineers have received decipherable data from Voyager 1 after crafting a creative solution to fix a communication problem aboard humanity’s most distant spacecraft in the cosmos.

2 days ago

The New Horizons spacecraft took an image of Pluto's heart on July 14, 2015. (Johns Hopkins Univers...

Ashley Strickland

Pluto gained a ‘heart’ after colliding with a planetary body

A huge heart-shaped feature on the surface of Pluto has intrigued astronomers since NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft captured it in a 2015 image. Now, researchers think they have solved the mystery of how the distinctive heart came to be.

3 days ago

FILE - The Lyrid meteor shower is seen over Burg on the Baltic Sea island of Fehmarn off Germany, F...

Christina Larson, The Associated Press

The Lyrid meteor shower peaks this weekend, but it may be hard to see it

The Lyrid meteor shower is underway. But with a nearly full moon in the sky during the peak, it might be tough to see clearly.

3 days ago

Nearly 4,000 of the new Tesla Cybertrucks are being recalled because the accelerator can become stu...

Chris Isidore and Peter Valdes-Dapena

Tesla recalls Cybertruck due to accelerator pedal that can stick

Tesla has been ordered to recall nearly 4,000 of its Cybertrucks due to an accelerator pedal that can stick in place when pressed down.

6 days ago

Zach Lemann, curator of animal collections for the Audubon Insectarium, prepares cicadas for eating...

Kevin McGill, Associated Press

Would you like a cicada salad? The monstrous little noisemakers descend on a New Orleans menu

They may look like little monsters. And their seemingly endless racket may be a nuisance. But as parts of the nation prepare for the emergence of trillions of noisy cicadas, bug experts say the little creatures can also be a tasty snack.

6 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Stylish room interior with beautiful Christmas tree and decorative fireplace...

Lighting Design

Create a Festive Home with Our Easy-to-Follow Holiday Prep Guide

Get ready for festive celebrations! Discover expert tips to prepare your home for the holidays, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere for unforgettable moments.

Battery low message on mobile device screen. Internet and technology concept...

PC Laptops

9 Tips to Get More Power Out of Your Laptop Battery

Get more power out of your laptop battery and help it last longer by implementing some of these tips from our guide.

SpaceX loses mega rocket near completion of third test flight