Space Exploration Technologies Corp, SpaceX said yesterday their second test launch of the SpaceX Starship was successfully on Saturday, with the rocket separating from the spaceship, but both ,then exploding over the ocean.
“Such an incredibly successful day,” a SpaceX announcer said. “Even though we did have a … rapid unscheduled disassembly of both the super heavy booster and the ship.”
Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX, plans to colonize Mars one day with the Starship. Its maiden test flight in April ended in an explosion as well.
The two-stage rocket ship took off from the company’s Starbase launch pad near Boca Chica, Texas, soaring nearly 90 kilometers above land on a scheduled 90-minute voyage into space.
According to a SpaceX livestream, the rocket’s Super Heavy first-stage booster seemed to complete a critical maneuver to separate from its core stage, but then detonated over the Gulf of Mexico shortly after detaching.
Meanwhile, the core Starship booster went deeper into space, but mission control lost contact with it a few minutes later.
“We have lost the data from the second stage…” “We believe we have lost the second stage,” stated SpaceX livestream host John Insprucker.
A camera view tracking the Starship booster appeared to show an explosion about eight minutes into the test mission, indicating that the vehicle failed at that moment. At the moment, the rocket’s height was 91 miles (148 kilometers).
“What we do believe right now is that the automated flight termination system on second stage appears to have triggered very late in the burn as we were headed downrange out over the Gulf of Mexico,” Insprucker went on to say.
“With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multiplanetary,” the firm said in a statement.
The mission’s goal was to launch Starship from Texas into space just short of orbit, then plummet through Earth’s atmosphere for a splashdown off the coast of Hawaii. The launch was originally slated for Friday, but it was moved back a day due to a last-minute switch of flight-control gear.
A successful test would have been a significant step toward SpaceX’s goal of developing a huge, multi-purpose spacecraft capable of returning people and cargo to the moon for NASA later this decade, and eventually to Mars.
Musk also envisions Starship eventually replacing the company’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket as the centerpiece of its launch business, which already lifts the vast majority of the world’s satellites and other commercial payloads into space.
A redesigned Starship
NASA, SpaceX’s primary customer, has a significant stake in the success of Starship, which the US space agency expects to play a key role in its human spaceflight program, Artemis, the successor to the Apollo missions that put astronauts on the moon for the first time more than a half century ago.
Because the two stages failed to separate, SpaceX had to blow up Starship four minutes after launch on April 20. The rocket exploded into a ball of fire and splashed into the Gulf of Mexico, creating a dust cloud many miles (kilometers) away.
The Federal Aviation Administration eventually allowed SpaceX to attempt again on Wednesday, despite protests from conservation organizations who are suing the regulator for failing to comply with environmental law.
Explosions during the early stages of rocket development, according to SpaceX, are welcome and assist inform design decisions faster than ground tests – yet time is running out for a redesigned Starship to be ready for a scheduled lunar landing in 2025.
The most significant modification since the first launch is how the spaceship separates from the launcher.
World’s largest rocket
The Starship has been upgraded to use “hot staging,” which means the top stage engines will ignite while still attached to the booster, a technique used in Russian rockets that potentially release significantly greater power.
Other adjustments include vent enhancements to reduce the chance of an explosion.
The first launch also caused extensive damage to the company’s launchpad at Starbase, which has since been strengthened with high-strength concrete and a water-jet system to guard against the huge heat and force created during launch.
Starship is the world’s largest rocket. When its two stages are merged, the rocket reaches 397 feet (121 meters) tall, comfortably surpassing the Statue of Liberty by 90 feet.
Its Super Heavy launcher generates 16.7 million pounds (74.3 Meganewtons) of thrust, about double that of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) – though the latter is now fully operational.
Both systems are designed to be totally reusable, which is a crucial component of SpaceX’s cost-cutting strategy.