SpaceX launched its mega rocket Starship but lost both the booster and the spacecraft in a pair of explosions minutes into Saturday's test flight.
The rocketship reached space following liftoff from South Texas before communication suddenly was lost. SpaceX officials said it appears the ship's self-destruct system blew it up over the Gulf of Mexico.
Minutes earlier, the separated booster had exploded over the gulf. By then, though, its job was done.
Saturday's demo lasted eight or so minutes, about twice as long as the first test in April, which also ended in an explosion. The latest flight came to an end as the ship's six engines were almost done firing to put it on an around-the-world path.
At nearly 400 feet (121 meters), Starship is the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, with the goal of ferrying people to the moon and Mars.
“The real topping on the cake today, that successful liftoff,” said SpaceX commentator John Insprucker, noting that all 33 booster engines fired as designed, unlike last time. The booster also separated seamlessly from the spaceship, which reached an altitude of 92 miles (148 kilometers).
Added commentator Kate Tice: “We got so much data, and that will all help us to improve for our next flight.”
SpaceX founder Elon Musk watched from behind launch controllers at the southern tip of Texas near the Mexico border, near Boca Chica Beach. At company headquarters in Hawthorne,…