SpaceX’s Starship hits key milestones in test flight but is lost now

SpaceX’s Starship Achieves Major Milestones Before Being Lost in Test Flight

Stay updated with CNN’s live coverage of the SpaceX Starship launch.

CNN reports that the SpaceX Starship rocket embarked on its third test flight from the Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas. On Thursday morning, it reached several milestones before it likely disintegrated.

The spacecraft underwent an integrated flight test lasting nearly an hour. It was supposed to land in the Indian Ocean, marking a step towards more complex missions and eventually transporting NASA astronauts to the moon.

However, during reentry, the team lost communication with both Starlink, SpaceX’s internet service, and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System.

Dan Huot, SpaceX’s communications manager, announced during the live broadcast that the spacecraft was lost and would not complete its splashdown. Despite this, he highlighted the progress made in this attempt.

SpaceX had not planned to recover the Starship after this flight, expecting it to make a hard landing. This test flight saw the spacecraft advancing further than in its two previous attempts in 2023.

The company views these early test flight failures as part of the process. These tests are crucial for collecting data to refine Starship for future missions.

The Starship, consisting of the upper spacecraft and the Super Heavy rocket booster, launched at 8:25 a.m. CT from Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX sees the Starship system as key to its mission of sending humans to Mars. NASA has selected Starship to transport astronauts to the moon on the Artemis III mission, planned for as early as September 2026.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson congratulated SpaceX on the test flight’s success, emphasizing the joint efforts through Artemis to return humans to the moon and then Mars.

The Super Heavy booster, the launch vehicle’s first stage, ignited and flew over the Gulf of Mexico. It separated from the Starship after burning most of its fuel.

The booster was expected to land autonomously in the ocean, but it failed to ignite all expected engines, leading to its loss, according to Huot.

SpaceX aims to capture footage of the booster’s descent. This flight marked the furthest a Super Heavy booster has traveled, surpassing previous attempts that ended in midair destruction.

The Federal Aviation Administration will investigate the incident involving both the Super Heavy booster and the Starship spacecraft. The FAA oversees commercial rocket launches and conducts investigations to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

The test flight coincided with SpaceX’s 22nd anniversary.

Elon Musk’s goal for these early test flights is to achieve orbital speeds necessary for stable Earth orbit, requiring speeds over 17,500 miles per hour.

Starship reached its target speeds but did not enter orbit during this flight.

The spacecraft executed several key tests and technology demonstrations, including a successful propellant transfer demonstration, crucial for future refueling in orbit.

Despite achieving milestones, SpaceX opted not to reignite Starship’s engines after a coasting phase, due to its steep trajectory towards Earth.

The spacecraft’s heat shield, made of 18,000 ceramic tiles, protected it from extreme temperatures during reentry, creating a bright red plasma halo visible in the livestream before communication was lost.

Refueling in orbit will be vital for Starship’s high-profile missions, including journeys to the moon under NASA’s Artemis program, which may require over a dozen refueling trips.

SpaceX received regulatory approval for this latest test flight, with Musk expressing confidence in its success and the valuable data it would provide for future missions.

SpaceX emphasizes that these test flights are experimental, aiming to learn from real-world conditions and rapidly innovate.

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