Mar 15, 2024 - News

Testing from Texas

A large rocket blasts into a blue sky.

SpaceX's Starship shortly after lifting off from the company's Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, yesterday. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Yesterday, SpaceX's massive Starship went to space and reentered Earth's atmosphere for the first time during its third and most ambitious test flight so far.

Why it matters: The test was a major leap for the vehicle, which is essential for NASA's Artemis program. The flight featured technologies critical for future manned missions to the moon or beyond, Axios' Jacob Knutson writes.

What they did: The spacecraft, the largest ever built, launched from the company's Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, around 8:25am.

  • After liftoff, it successfully separated from its huge booster, which then went on a controlled descent flight back to Earth before crashing in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Meanwhile, the spacecraft carried on to perform several tests while in orbit. It opened its payload door and transferred tons of liquid oxygen between two tanks to simulate an in-orbit refueling of the ship.
  • After the tests, Starship started a controlled reentry and reentered Earth's atmosphere before SpaceX lost contact with the ship. It was expected to perform a soft landing in the Indian Ocean.
  • SpaceX said the ship did not survive reentry.

Zoom in: The failed landing will likely trigger a mishap investigation from the Federal Aviation Administration.

  • Such probes are routine after tests don't go according to plan.
  • Still, it was a major improvement from previous tests.
  • The company likely gathered data throughout, which may help improve the vehicle's design.
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