SpaceX achieves historic milestone in launch of world's largest rocket into space but Starship lost on reentry

Teams on the ground lost contact with Starship about an hour after liftoff as it was reentering the Earth's atmosphere. The FAA says a "mishap" investigation has been launched.

BOCA CHICA, Texas SpaceX achieved a historic milestone Thursday in launching the world's largest rocket as it orbited Earth, but the company's Starship was lost during reentry.

The third integrated flight test of Starship Super Heavy roared to life from its tower in Boca Chica, Texas, shortly after 9:25 a.m. EDT. Communication with both Starship and a system designed to track the craft was lost about an hour after liftoff, and the craft never returned to Earth. 

"We are making the call now that we have lost Ship 28," Dan Hout, a spokesman for SpaceX, said during the live broadcast of the launch.

The FAA said a "mishap" investigation is being opened, but no public injuries or property damage was reported.

The launch system, consisting of 39 Raptor engines, provided the necessary thrust to carry the spacecraft over the Gulf of Mexico. After igniting the Raptor engines, Super Heavy executed a flip maneuver while Starship entered a coast phase before reentry. 

During the reentry phase, SpaceX said it could collect valuable data at hypersonic speeds, more than five times the speed of sound.

The plan was for both Starship and the rocket that carried it to space to splash down in the Indian Ocean, but that never happened.

"Obviously, there's a lot to go through," Hout said. "Everyone wants to know right off the bat what happened. It takes us a little bit of time, but I can assure you that as soon as we start finding things out, we're going to let everybody know."

Before Thursday's test flight, Starship made it to the edge of space in November before its automated termination system triggered a self-destruct of the spaceship.


The FAA closed the November test flight mishap investigation last month. SpaceX was required to implement 17 corrective actions, including hardware and upgrades, before Thursday's orbital flight test.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said the second test flight achieved several milestones, and the company hoped to expand on those with Thursday's flight.

The first test flight in April ended with an epic explosion 24 miles over the Gulf of Mexico when SpaceX launched Starship for the first time. Previous test "hops" were completed in Texas – some also explosive – before SpaceX tried to launch the spaceship and booster together.

For the third test flight, SpaceX said it took a different trajectory with Starship and tested a new set of "ambitious objectives."

The previous two tests were set to land in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii. Neither of the last two vehicles survived the ascent to make a water landing. SpaceX said the third test flight was supposed to culminate with a splashdown in the Indian Ocean.

NASA managers continue to follow the testing and development of Starship, which will be used to land NASA Artemis astronauts on the Moon in 2026. However, SpaceX still needs many more test flights before the vehicle flies people.