SpaceX launched its interplanetary-purpose space vehicle Starship on November 18 from its base in Boca Chica, on the coast of Texas. However, the booster vehicle suffered a “rapid, unscheduled disassembly” after the stages separated and exploded.
This is the second attempt to send this giant rocket on an orbital test flight, after the failure of the first one in April. “Today’s test will help us improve the reliability of Starship as SpaceX seeks to make life multiplanetary,” the company commented on the X account in its conclusion.
The planned flight path was similar to the first attempt. The rocket began its ascent at 13:03 UTC, two and a half seconds after the booster exploded; this time, its 33 Raptor engines fed a combination of liquid methane and liquid oxygen propellant.
The large vehicle reached the time of maximum aerodynamic pressure—the peak of structural stress—52 seconds after takeoff, with a speed of more than 2,150 kilometers per hour.
Two minutes and 50 seconds after takeoff, the booster shut down its engines. The Starship stage ignited two seconds later to successfully separate from the Super Heavy booster using a new separation technique called hot-staging and began the flight phase.
The booster rocket exploded
The Super Heavy performed a turn maneuver with an engine restart to return to land in the Gulf of Mexico. However, “the booster underwent rapid, unscheduled disassembly shortly after stage separation,while the starship’s engines ran for several minutes on their way to space,” SpaceX explained on its X account after the test.
“What we believe now is that the automated flight termination system of the second stage appears to have been activated late in the ignition as we head into the Gulf of Mexico,” said John Insprucker, SpaceX’s chief integration engineer, in a live webcast today, Space.com reports.
Starship’s goal is to circle the Earth in a 90-minute suborbital trajectory at a minimum of 150 kilometers. Before completing its trip around the world, it was destined to re-enter the atmosphere and fall into the Pacific Ocean, near Hawaii.
The biggest rocket ever built
SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket, called Starship, represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Starship is the most powerful launch vehicle ever developed in the world, carrying up to 150 fully reusable metric tons and 250 expendable metric tons. Measuring 9 meters in diameter, the Starship spacecraft is 50 meters long and mounted on a 70-meter Super Heavy booster with 33 Raptor engines.
For the second flight, Space X strengthened the foundations of the launch pad, which was destroyed during the first takeoff. Also, to minimize damage, a water-cooled steel flame deflector was made.
On April 20, the company led by Elon Musk attempted to orbit its Starship for the first time, but the problems separating the stage before reaching orbital altitude forced the rocket to self-destruct over the Gulf of Mexico after 4 minutes of flight. Despite everything, it became the most powerful rocket to leave a launch pad with more than 17 million pounds of thrust at takeoff.
The launch system in Texas, and the one that will eventually be built at the Kennedy Space Center, is designed to finally return the Super Heavy booster to the 142-meter-high launch integration tower that is often called. “Mechazilla with a landing with the help of two rotating metal arms called “sticks”.
The Starship spacecraft will also make a vertical landing at its destination, making the combination the industry’s first fully functional rocket.
NASA is waiting for SpaceX’s Starship because it contracted with Musk’s company to provide a functional version for its astronauts in the Artemis program to use during their journey to the surface of the moon.