SpaceX launched its Starship mega rocket, but lost the booster and spacecraft in several explosions after Saturday's test flight.
The rocket reached space after liftoff from South Texas before it suddenly lost contact. SpaceX officials said the ship's self-destruct system blew it up in the Gulf of Mexico.
A few minutes ago, a dedicated booster exploded in the bay. By then, however, his work was done.
Saturday's demo lasted eight minutes, about twice as long as the first test in April, which also ended in an explosion. The latest flight ended as the ship's engines nearly finished firing to launch it around the world.
At nearly 400 feet (121 meters) tall, Starship is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, with the goal of taking people to the moon and Mars.
“The real icing on the cake today, this successful launch,” said SpaceX commentator John Insprucker, noting that all 33 booster engines performed as designed, unlike last time. The booster also successfully separated from the spacecraft, reaching an altitude of 92 miles (148 kilometers).
Added commentator Kate Tice: “We've got so much data and it's all going to help us improve our next flight.”
SpaceX founder Elon Musk watched from behind launch controllers on 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 took off at dawn. The room fell silent as it became clear that the spaceship had been destroyed.
SpaceX aimed for an altitude of 150 miles (240 kilometers), high enough to send the bullet-shaped spacecraft around the world before touching down in the Pacific Ocean about 1 1/2 hours after liftoff near Hawaii, a full orbit.
Since April's flight demo, SpaceX has made dozens of improvements to the rocket, as well as the launch pad. The Federal Aviation Administration cleared the rocket for flight on Wednesday after certifying that all safety and environmental concerns had been met.
After Saturday's launch, the FAA said no injuries or public harm were reported and that an investigation was underway to determine what went wrong. SpaceX cannot launch another Starship until the review is complete and corrections are made, the FAA added.
NASA hopes to land Starship astronauts on the moon by the end of 2025 or shortly thereafter. The space agency awarded SpaceX a $3 billion contract to carry it out, ferrying astronauts from its Orion capsule to the Starship in lunar orbit before landing on the surface.
“Today's test is an opportunity to learn – then fly again,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said via X, formerly known as Twitter.
The starship is 34 feet (10 meters) taller than NASA's Saturn V rocket, which carried humans to the moon more than half a century ago, and 75 feet (23 meters) taller than NASA's Space Launch System rocket that flew to the moon and back. Without a crew, last year. And it has about twice the lift.
As before, there was nothing of value for the test run on the Starship.
Once the starship is proven, Musk plans to use fully reusable mega rockets to launch satellites into Earth orbit, equipment and people to the moon and eventually Mars.
The Associated Press Department of Health and Science receives support from the Science and Education Media Group at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.