BOCA CHICA, Texas, March 14 (Reuters) – SpaceX’s Starship rocket, designed to eventually send astronauts to the moon and beyond, completed nearly an entire test flight to space on its third try on Thursday but was destroyed during its return to Earth after making it farther than ever before.

During a live webcast of the flight, SpaceX commentators said mission control lost communications with the spacecraft during its atmospheric re-entry at hypersonic speed. The vehicle was nearing a planned splashdown in the Indian Ocean about an hour after launch from south Texas.

A few minutes later, SpaceX confirmed that the spacecraft had been “lost,” presumably either burning up or coming apart during re-entry or crashing into the sea.

For reasons that were left unclear, SpaceX opted to skip one of the test flight’s core objectives – an attempt to re-ignite one of Starship’s Raptor engines while it coasted in a shallow orbit. That milestone is considered key to its future success.

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