(MENAFN) In a setback for SpaceX's ambitious Starship program, the second integrated flight test of the unmanned Starship rocket concluded in failure on Saturday, culminating in an explosion approximately eight minutes after liftoff. The two-stage booster, launched from the Starbase launch site near Boca Chica, Texas, aimed to undertake a planned 90-minute test mission to space and back but faced complications leading to a premature termination.
The Starship rocket, designed to revolutionize space travel, reached an altitude of 90 miles (148 km) before encountering difficulties. Despite the apparent loss of the craft, SpaceX owner Elon Musk took to X (formerly Twitter) on Sunday to express optimism, stating, "For the first time, there is a rocket that can make all life multiplanetary. A fork in the road of human destiny."
The mission had initially targeted an altitude of 150 miles (241 KM) with the intention of circling the globe before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. While the super-heavy first stage booster reportedly separated successfully, it met an explosive end over the Gulf of Mexico shortly after detachment, described by SpaceX as a "rapid unplanned separation."
The main body of the Starship continued its ascent into space, but a few minutes later, mission control lost contact with the spacecraft. SpaceX engineer and livestream host John Insprucker, in a post-launch statement, indicated that data from the second stage was missing, leading to the belief that the main body of the rocket might have been lost. Insprucker noted that engineers suspect an automatic termination command was triggered, though the exact reason remains unclear.
The incident marks a notable setback for SpaceX, which has been at the forefront of space exploration and commercial satellite launches. The Starship program, spearheaded by Elon Musk, aims to develop a fully reusable spacecraft capable of carrying humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. As investigations into the cause of the failure unfold, the outcome of this latest setback could influence the trajectory of SpaceX's ambitious goals and the broader landscape of space exploration.
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