SpaceX launched Starship today as it cleared the pad with a successful liftoff that ended in a RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly).
This was the 2nd attempt to launch Starship as the first one was called off on Monday due to a technical issue with the Super Heavy pressurization system.
CEO Elon Musk and the rest of the SpaceX team celebrated this as a success despite Starship did not reach orbit. Starship 24 (S24) and Super Heavy Booster 7 (B7) blew up in mid-air after reaching a max altitude of 39 km.
Starship reached a maximum speed of 2,112 km/h (~1,312 mph) before ending up in a RUD. Elon Musk shared an image of Starship as it broke the sound barrier and crossed the supersonic speed.
SpaceX used the flight termination system (FTS) to blow up Starship at an altitude of 30 km above sea level for apparent safety reasons. A 120 meters tall stainless steel spaceship (taller than a 30-story building) falling down is not a great idea at all.
SpaceX staff at both Star Command Center at Starbase, Texas and the HQ in Hawthorne, California cheered and dubbed this launch a success. Because this was the first time a fully integrated (1st+2nd stage) Starship lifted off from a launch pad.
Even before the launch, SpaceX employees carrying out the live stream webcast stated that anything beyond clearing the launch pad would be counted as a success. Reaching a 39 km altitude was far beyond their expectations.
At liftoff, 3 out of 33 Raptor engines installed at the base of the Super Heavy booster did not fire. Still, the gigantic Starship made a successful liftoff from the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) at Starbase where it was fully stacked for about two weeks in anticipation of a launch attempt.
Similarly, in a 33-engine static fire attempt earlier in February, a Raptor engine did not ignite as the test started and another was turned off by SpaceX for technical reasons.
One of the center-ring gimbal engines was also turned off at liftoff. This might have limited the maneuvering ability of Starship during the flight.
Before hitting the RUD, Starship was 1st stage rocket booster was expected to separate from the 2nd stage (stage separation). But for a few seconds, this did not happen and it started rotating abruptly in mid-air, so it was time for self-destruction using the flight termination system (FTS).
However, all the experience and data that was gained from this apparent Starship failure is very significant for successful future flights.
SpaceX attempted 9 high-altitude tests on early Starship prototypes and only SN15 landed back successfully. So, learning and data points here are more important than reaching the orbit on the first attempt.
This launch was intended as an orbital flight test but the objective was not achieved. SpaceX has a number of Starship and Super Heavy prototypes ready for more tests in the near future, so stay tuned.
Elon Musk’s mother Maye Musk and brother Kimbal Musk were also present at Starbase to observe today’s Starship orbital launch attempt. While Musk was present inside the Star Command Center to monitor the launch.
“It reminds me of the first SpaceX launches, you know, the first 4 blew up, and, so we just have to keep on,” said Maye Musk. “The engineers seem to be optimistic, which is important,” she added.
What Maye and Kimbal said further, let’s watch & listen:
SpaceX and its CEO Elon Musk shared some stunning photography from today’s Starship-Super Heavy launch, here it is for your sore eyes:
- Elon Musk’s iPhone wallpaper of Starship’s 2nd launch tells us a bit about his phone preferences
- 2nd Starship launch was a success, it went way beyond stage separation and then missing in space
- SpaceX delays Starship launch to Saturday 18th Nov to fix a grid fin on the Super Heavy rocket, says Elon Musk
- FAA grants SpaceX license for Starship’s 2nd orbital launch
- SpaceX gives a new NET date of 17th Nov for the 2nd Starship orbital flight test
- SpaceX equips Starship with Flight Termination System (FTS) in preparation for mid-November launch