SpaceX has lost contact with its Starship mega-rocket following explosions during its second test flight from South Texas.
The 397-foot two-stage rocket – the largest and most powerful ever built – flew over the Gulf of Mexico after taking off from the Elon MuskBoca Chica-owned company launch site.
EspaceX aimed for an altitude of 150 miles – just high enough for the spacecraft to circle the world before splashing into the Pacific near Hawaii 90 minutes after liftoff.
But while the first stage’s super-heavy booster appeared to have successfully separated, it exploded shortly after.
The Starship’s main craft continued into space, but moments later a company broadcaster said mission control had lost contact with the vehicle.
John Insprucker, host of the SpaceX livestream, said: “We lost the second stage data… we think we may have lost the second stage.”
About eight minutes into the test mission, a view from the camera tracking the Starship’s main booster appeared to show an explosion indicating the vehicle was down at that time after reaching an altitude of 91 miles (148 km).
The company said in a post on social media site X, formerly known as Twitter: “With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multi-planetary.”
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The launch was scheduled for Friday but was delayed a day due to a last-minute change in flight control hardware.
The Starship’s first flight, in April, lasted just four minutes before an explosion sent the wreckage crashing into the gulf.
Since then, SpaceX has made dozens of improvements to the booster and its 33 engines, as well as the launch pad.
The rocket is a critical part of NASA’s ambitions to return astronauts to the Moon.
Mr. Musk also said that Starship could also be used for missions to Mars.