Shortly after takeoff, SpaceX’s second Starship flight test resulted in an explosion


The massive Starship rocket from SpaceX blasted off from the company’s Starbase launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas, just after 8 AM ET. Instead of making its scheduled descent and water landing after the launch and an intended “hot stage” separation, the Super Heavy booster exploded.

The Starship itself proceeded with its space ascent in spite of this setback. A few minutes afterward, SpaceX reported that they had not heard back from the Starship, suggesting that the spacecraft might have vanished. Before its tragic end, the upper stage officially entered space, according to the New York Times, having climbed to a height of ninety miles. A post-launch statement from SpaceX admitted that “the booster experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly” after the separation. SpaceX, however, did not reveal any particulars about the Starship other than to state that its “engines fired for several minutes on its way to space.” The FAA then verified the Starship’s disappearance. The spacecraft was probably out of the reach of ground stations at that point in the flight. It appears that soon after the Raptor engines were turned off, the craft’s flight termination system came into operation.

This test flight was intended to see Starship briefly orbit the Earth before splashing down close to Hawaii. The head of NASA’s Human Landing System program, Lisa Watson-Morgan, stated in a recently published interview with Ars Technica that the launch would be a worthwhile educational experience even if it didn’t work out. It would give NASA and SpaceX the crucial data they need to improve Starship’s systems in preparation for future testing. This is the rocket’s second attempt at launch. The massive 397-foot rocket uses a two-stage system that splits soon after takeoff, with the booster designed to land back on Earth. SpaceX had to reschedule the Starship launch from its original November 17th date in order to replace a grid fin actuator, which is essential to precisely guiding the Super Heavy booster. Comparing the latest launch test to the earlier one, much greater progress was made. The rocket that ignited shortly after liftoff on Starship’s first test flight in April failed, setting off a self-destruct sequence. Propeller leaks from the Super Heavy booster caused a disconnection with the main flight computer, which SpaceX blamed for this failure. The Federal Aviation Administration’s 63 corrective actions had to be addressed by the business before proceeding with another launch.

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