IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
Last updated

After successful liftoff and separation, SpaceX loses touch with Starship

One SpaceX official said an automated termination system onboard Starship was likely triggered, and the spacecraft appeared to have detonated.

It was a mostly successful second outing for SpaceX’s next-generation Starship megarocket.

The nearly 400-foot-tall uncrewed rocket lifted off on a crucial test flight at 8 a.m. ET, and while SpaceX pulled off several major objectives, they ultimately lost contact with Starship around 10 minutes after liftoff.

Few details are known at this time, but during a livestream of the event, one SpaceX official said an automated termination system onboard Starship was likely triggered and the spacecraft appeared to have detonated.

Still, SpaceX was able to achieve more milestones during this flight compared to its first attempt earlier in the year.

Starship’s debut launch in April ended in a huge explosion mere minutes into the flight. The incident prompted a safety review and drew intense scrutiny over damage to the local environment around SpaceX’s Starbase test site in Boca Chica, Texas.

The Starship rocket is a critical part of NASA’s ambitions to return to the moon. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has also said that Starship could also be used for missions to Mars.

18d ago / 2:29 PM UTC

What we know so far

It's not clear if we'll hear any further updates from SpaceX today, but the company did say on X that the Super Heavy booster "experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly" — essentially, it exploded — shortly after separation.

No other details were provided, but it appears that all 33 of the Super Heavy's Raptor engines ignited at liftoff, and that the rocket's two stages did separate successfully. Both of those objectives represent big gains for SpaceX over their first Starship launch attempt back in April.

The company did no elaborate on what happened to the spacecraft, Starship, which lost contact with SpaceX and may have triggered its self-destruct system.

"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 multiplanetary," the company added.

18d ago / 2:15 PM UTC

Musk congratulates SpaceX team

18d ago / 1:56 PM UTC

NASA head offers congrats

NASA head Bill Nelson offered some congrats to the SpaceX team on the test flight.

18d ago / 1:55 PM UTC

No updates from SpaceX

We're still waiting word from SpaceX for details on what happened end of the launch.

Few details are known at this time, but one SpaceX official said during the livestream of the launch that an automated termination system onboard Starship was likely triggered and the spacecraft appeared to have detonated.

18d ago / 1:35 PM UTC

What's an automated flight termination system?

Starship is equipped with an "automated flight termination system" that is designed to kick in if something goes awry with the spacecraft. If an anomaly is detected, for instance, the spacecraft can essentially destroy itself.

18d ago / 1:28 PM UTC

Better than the first

It's clear that SpaceX learned a lot from its first launch.

While we're still waiting to hear exactly what happened to Starship, the successful launch of the rocket and the separation are crucial milesteones in the system's development.

A rocket is seen ascending into the sky near a body of water
SpaceX's mega rocket Starship launches for a test flight from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on Saturday.Eric Gay / AP
18d ago / 1:21 PM UTC

Starship may have detonated

CNBC space reports Michael Sheetz is reporting that SpaceX webcaster John Insprucker said on the livestream that the system's termination system may have activated.

18d ago / 1:17 PM UTC

That's it for the livestream

We're left a little unsure of what's happening with the test flight.

After a successful launch and separation, the Super Heavy booster exploded and Starship appeared to continue on its journey.

But not long after that, SpaceX seemed to stop receiving data from Starship.

And now, the company's livestream is over. Hopefully we'll know more soon.

18d ago / 1:15 PM UTC

SpaceX appears to have lost touch with Starship

SpaceX said on its livestream that it is no longer receiving data from the Starship spacecraft, meaning that it may have lost touch with the vehicle.

18d ago / 1:11 PM UTC

Starship headed around Earth

Starship won't get into orbit, but it will take a suborbital trip to test its heat shield and ability to withstand re-entry from orbit.

The ship, if it makes it, will splash down in the Pacific not too far from Hawaii

18d ago / 1:08 PM UTC

Super Heavy booster explodes

After separation, the Super Heavy booster exploded, which SpaceX calls a "rapid unscheduled dissaembly."

The explosion did not appear to affect Starship, which had already separated.

18d ago / 1:08 PM UTC

Stage separation complete

The rocket's two stages appeared to separate successfully, with the Super Heavy booster falling back to Earth as the Starship spacecraft continued into space. Cheers erupted at SpaceX's headquarters as separation of the rocket was confirmed.

Stage separation was a crucial milestone for SpaceX. During the company's first test flight in April, the Starship rocket exploded before stage separation could even be attempted.

18d ago / 1:06 PM UTC

Systems nominal so far

The Super Heavy booster's 33 Raptor engines fired successfully, sending Starship toward space. Flight controllers reported that the rocket system is performing as expected so far.

18d ago / 1:05 PM UTC

There it goes

18d ago / 1:04 PM UTC

One minute in

About a minute into the flight and everything looks good. The rocket has surpassed 1,000 kilmeters per hour.

18d ago / 1:03 PM UTC

Starship lifts off

"We have liftoff," SpaceX's flight director reported as the huge booster rumbled to life and streaked skyward.

18d ago / 1:02 PM UTC

Clock's rolling again

The hold is over. 30 seconds.

18d ago / 1:01 PM UTC

A hold at 40 seconds

There's a hold on the launch countdown at 40 seconds, a common event in these kinds of launches. This could last for several minutes.

SpaceX said the hold is to address with some pressurization needs.

18d ago / 12:53 PM UTC

No major issues so far

With roughly 8 minutes to go until liftoff, SpaceX officials said all systems are performing well and they are not working any major issues at this time.

18d ago / 12:50 PM UTC

Other launch opportunities available

If SpaceX decides to stand down from today's test launch, the company said there are backup opportunities available 24 hours and 48 hours from now, depending on how much work would be needed to prepare for another attempted liftoff.

18d ago / 12:43 PM UTC

A new separation strategy

During today's test, SpaceX will attempt a new maneuver when the the first-stage Super Heavy booster and upper-stage spacecraft separate several minutes after liftoff.

Company officials said they will try a technique known as "hot staging," which involves igniting the Starship spacecraft's engines while the Super Heavy's engines are still partially firing.

The idea is to use the spacecraft's engines to help it separate and continue on into orbit. The strategy is a risk because it has not been attempted before with a reusable rocket system. It's also a departure from the more traditional separation strategy that SpaceX intended for Starship's first test flight in April.

18d ago / 12:32 PM UTC

How to watch live

SpaceX's livestream of the launch has begun, with a little over 30 minutes to go until the attempted liftoff. People can follow along at:

18d ago / 12:01 PM UTC

Weather is a "go" for launch

Fueling of the Super Heavy booster is also underway and SpaceX said the rocket's systems are performing as expected so far.

18d ago / 11:16 AM UTC

FAA approval paved way for test flight

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it had granted SpaceX a launch license for a second test flight of Starship.

SpaceX had been a holding pattern waiting for that approval, which had been in question due in part to the consequences of the first test.

“The FAA has given license authorization for the second launch of the @SpaceX Starship Super Heavy vehicle,” the FAA said in a statement on the social media platform X. “The FAA determined SpaceX met all safety, environmental, policy and financial responsibility requirements.”

18d ago / 11:16 AM UTC

Starship's fiery first test launch

SpaceX's first test flight of Starship ended with a bang.

The uncrewed rocket ignited and blasted skyward for about four minutes, but the separation of the booster from the spacecraft that sat atop the rocket appeared to fail. Some of the booster’s 33 engines appeared to not ignite.

The rocket then began to tumble downward before it exploded.

The company had emphasized that the test was an early step.

“Congrats @SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship!” CEO Elon Musk tweeted. “Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months.”

18d ago / 11:16 AM UTC

Starship is part of a new breed of rockets


This has been a big year for new rockets.

Starship is one of several rockets that made their debuts this year. They include NASA's moon-bound Space Launch System, the Vulcan Centaur, developed by the Denver-based United Launch Alliance, Ariane 6 from the France-based Arianespace, and the H3 rocket from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

18d ago / 11:16 AM UTC

To the moon ... and on to Mars

As with any rocket launch, there's a lot at stake with this liftoff. Even though Starship is uncrewed for today's test flight, the outcome will be closely scrutinized.

Starship is expected to play a crucial part in NASA's plans to return to the moon. The agency selected the Starship spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts to the lunar surface on the upcoming Artemis III mission, which could launch as early as 2025.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has also said that Starship is being developed for future missions to Mars.

18d ago / 11:16 AM UTC

Last-minute repairs push launch to Saturday

SpaceX was aiming to conduct the test flight on Friday, but Elon Musk, the company's founder and CEO, announced Thursday on X that part of the rocket needed to be replaced, pushing the launch into the weekend.

18d ago / 11:16 AM UTC

Stacked and ready

SpaceX said Thursday that the two pieces of Starship — its Super Heavy booster and reusable Starship spacecraft — had been successfully stacked.

18d ago / 11:16 AM UTC

Photo: Dawn at the launch pad

SpaceX's Starship rocket is unstacked from the booster as it sits on the launchpad at Starbase ahead in Boca Chica, Texas, on Nov. 17, 2023.
Timothy A. Clary / AFP - Getty Images

SpaceX’s Starship rocket is unstacked from the booster as it sits on the launchpad at Starbase Friday in Boca Chica, Texas.

18d ago / 11:16 AM UTC

What to expect for today's launch

SpaceX is planning an orbital demonstration for today's Starship test flight. The nearly 400-foot-tall rocket has two parts: a first-stage booster known as Super Heavy and an upper-stage Starship spacecraft.

The two stages are designed to separate 2 minutes and 41 seconds into the flight.

After igniting its 33 Raptor engines, the Super Heavy booster will eventually splash down in the Gulf of Mexico roughly seven minutes after liftoff. The Starship spacecraft, on the other hand, will then ignite its own engines to approach orbital velocity, or speeds near 17,000 mph that are required to reach orbit.

Starship won't technically reach that point, however, because the test flight will not include a full circuit of the planet. Instead, the mission will last about an hour and a half before the spacecraft splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Hawaii.

Silhouttes of people, some with camera gear, on a hill at sunrise
Onlookers wait for SpaceX's mega rocket Starship to launch for a test flight from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on Saturday. Eric Gay / AP