SpaceX makes its best Starship test flight but ship explodes on return to Earth

SpaceX, billionaire Elon Musk’s rocket company, made its third test flight of the Starship on Thursday (14), considered by the manufacturer to be the most successful experiment so far with the world’s largest spacecraft. Once again, there were no crew members.

The mission managed to go beyond what it achieved in the previous tests and came close to landing the Starship in the Indian Ocean, as planned. But around 50 minutes after launch, contact with the ship was interrupted.

SpaceX’s communications manager, Daniel Huot, confirmed a few minutes later that the Starship had been destroyed. “The team reported that the Starship was lost, so no landing today. But it’s amazing to see how far we’ve come this time.”

The company has promised to investigate the cause of the incident. “Obviously there’s a lot to get through, everyone wants to know upfront what happened, but it takes a bit of time. I can assure you that as soon as we start to figure things out, we’ll let everyone know,” said Huot.

The company considers that it has made progress compared to previous experiments. The other two missions, carried out in 2023 and also unmanned, ended in explosions shortly after take-off.

On Thursday’s launch, the Super Heavy rocket successfully decoupled from the Starship. And, for the first time, the spacecraft made almost the entire scheduled 1-hour flight. See below for the main moments of the flight.

The launch took place at around 10:25 a.m. from SpaceX’s air base in Boca Chica, Texas (USA).

The launch was delayed because the team had to remove some vessels that were stranded in the Gulf of Mexico.

The new test comes four months after the second attempt. The other two experiments ended in rocket explosions a few minutes after take-off.

Earlier in the day, cloudy weather and windy conditions also worried the SpaceX team.