Elon Musk’s uncrewed SpaceX has lost contact with its Starship giant rocket following an explosion during its second test flight from south Texas.
This is the Starship’s second test after its first attempt to reach space ended in an explosion in April this year.
The two-stage rocket ship planned a 90-minute flight into space and blasted off from the Elon Musk-owned company’s Starbase launch site near Boca Chica in Texas, east of Brownsville.
If successful, the rocket would have ended up landing in the Pacific ocean near Hawaii.
The company hopes the rocket can eventually manage a trip around the Earth, which could take an hour and a half.
However, 180 seconds into the flight, the two stages of the spacecraft broke apart.
SpaceX shortly announced that it could not find a signal from the second stage, which it declared “lost”.
The company believes the rocket’s self-destruction mechanism was set off after it lost the signal.
SpaceX’s second flight is an improvement compared to its first test launch in April, when both stages ultimately exploded four minutes into its flight. The spacecraft’s first stage, nicknamed “Super Heavy” for its 33 engines, had failed, causing both stages to explode.
Super Heavy’s 33 engines succeeded in lifting itself this time and the second stage, the rocket system Starship, into space.
The Starship successfully separated from Super Heavy as planned, but the rocket’s automatic termination system activated, causing an explosion.
“What we do believe right now is that the automated flight termination system on second stage appears to have triggered very late in the burn as we were headed downrange over the Gulf of Mexico,” SpaceX engineer John Insprucker said in a broadcast.
Musk confirmed that it experienced an explosion, something the company refers to as “a rapid unscheduled disassembly”.
His company has a $4billion contract with the US space agency NASA, which hopes the partnership will result in the first successful flight to the moon in more than five decades.