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SpaceX loses Starship on reentry over Indian Ocean

CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP / Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — SpaceX lost contact with its Starship rocket on reentry over the Indian Ocean, the company said Thursday, but the third test flight was still deemed a success as it advanced further than either previous test.

The unmanned spaceship blasted off successfully from the company’s base in Boca Chica, Texas, at 8:25 a.m. local time.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hailed its entry into space, writing on X, “Starship reached orbital velocity! Congratulations @SpaceX team!!”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson wrote on X, “Congrats to @SpaceX on a successful test flight! Starship has soared into the heavens. Together, we are making great strides through Artemis to return humanity to the Moon—then look onward to Mars.”

The rocket is being tested as the company pushes to travel to the moon, and even, eventually, Mars.

“As the most powerful launch system ever developed, Starship will be able to carry up to 100 people on long-duration, interplanetary flights,” the company says. “Starship will also enable satellite delivery, the development of a Moon base, and point-to-point transport here on Earth.”

Musk touted Starship — at approximately 5,000 tons — as “the largest flying object ever made.”

SpaceX had conducted its second Starship rocket test flight in November 2023, during which the booster exploded after separating and the spacecraft apparently detonated after reaching space.

The Federal Aviation Administration had said it would oversee a mishap investigation led by SpaceX to determine the root cause of the event and ways to prevent it from happening again, and not allow another launch until it was satisfied there was no risk to public safety. The FAA gave SpaceX the go-ahead for the third test flight on Wednesday.

Thursday’s flight spent more than 45 minutes in space before the command center lost contact with the ship.

During the first test in April 2023, the rocket was forced to self-destruct about three minutes after liftoff when the boosters failed to separate.

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