Mon. Dec 11th, 2023
Second Starship Test Flight Shows Progress, Falls Short of Orbit

SpaceX conducted its second Starship test flight from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas over the weekend. Although the flight did not reach orbit, it showed substantial progress compared to the first test in April. In the second test, all 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy first stage successfully ignited, while the Starship second stage survived separation and reached a height of around 150 kilometers.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared photos of the new launch pad after the launch, stating that no refurbishment is needed for the water-cooled steel plate before the next launch. The pad survived the test, demonstrating its durability.

During the test, SpaceX used a stage separation method called “hot staging.” The Starship second stage engines ignited and pushed the spacecraft away from the Super Heavy booster. Although the six Raptor engines on the Starship successfully ignited and the vehicle survived hot staging, the Super Heavy booster exploded after separation.

Despite the mishap, the Starship continued ascending for a few more minutes, with all six engines firing. It climbed to an altitude of about 150 kilometers before SpaceX lost connection and activated the flight termination system.

The primary objective for Starship was to survive stage separation and continue on the path to orbit, which it achieved. SpaceX plans to have hardware ready for the third Starship flight within three to four weeks, as three ships are in the final stages of production.

Before returning to flight, SpaceX will need to undergo a mishap investigation with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA confirmed that it will launch an investigation, as the mission resulted in the loss of the vehicle. No injuries or public property damage were reported.

SpaceX emphasized that the mission was a test and provided valuable data for further development. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson praised SpaceX’s progress, as NASA has awarded the company billions of dollars in contracts to use Starship for its Artemis program, aimed at returning astronauts to the Moon and beyond.