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    Third test flight of Hawthorne-based SpaceX’s mega rocket ends with loss of spacecraft
    • March 14, 2024

    By MARCIA DUNN | AP Aerospace Writer

    SpaceX’s mega rocket blasted off on another test flight Thursday and made it farther than two previous attempts, but the spacecraft was lost as it descended back to Earth.

    The Hawthorne-based company said it lost contact with the spacecraft as it neared its goal, a splashdown in the Indian Ocean, about an hour after liftoff from the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border.

    Two test flights last year both ended in explosions minutes after liftoff.

    Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, headed out over the Gulf of Mexico after launch Thursday. Minutes later, the booster separated seamlessly from the spaceship and splashed down into the gulf and the spacecraft continued eastward. No people or satellites were on board.

    An hour later, SpaceX commentators said contact had been lost with the spacecraft.

    “The ship has been lost. So no splashdown today,” said SpaceX’s Dan Huot. “But again, it’s incredible to see how much further we got this time around.”

    Earlier during the flight, SpaceX’s Elon Musk had congratulated his team.

    “SpaceX has come a long way,” Musk said via X, former Twitter. The rocket company was founded exactly 22 years ago Thursday.

    The rocket and futuristic-looking spacecraft towers 397 feet (121 meters), easily exceeding NASA’s past and present moon rockets.

    NASA watched with keen interest: The space agency needs Starship to succeed in order to land astronauts on the moon in the next two or so years. This new crop of moonwalkers — the first since last century’s Apollo program — will descend to the lunar surface in a Starship, at least the first couple times.


    The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Educational Media Group. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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    ​ Orange County Register