SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, Texas — Once again, SpaceX’s giant spaceship met an explosive end. SpaceX’s next-generation megarocket — the largest ever built — launched its second test flight on Saturday, November 18; It was a long-awaited trip that took a giant vehicle into space for the first time, but it was short-lived. . Shortly after the stage left, the rocket’s massive super-heavy booster exploded; Starship’s booster stage also exploded near its target altitude during what SpaceX called a “rapid unplanned breakup.”
“As we move toward the Gulf of Mexico, we currently believe that the second stage automatic termination system is engaged too late,” John Inspruker, SpaceX’s chief integration engineer, said during a live webcast today.
The massive Starship and Super Heavy launch vehicle took off from the SpaceX Starbase test and production facility in Boca Chica at approximately 08:00 ET (13:00 GMT; 07:00 Texas local time).
Hundreds of spectators gathered this morning on South Padre Island, just north of Boca Chica, to watch the launch. They cheered as the massive rocket began to ascend, orange light from the Raptor Starship’s first 33 engines shining from its exhaust. At nearly 400 feet (122 meters) tall, Starship is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built and can be seen from miles away as it stands on the Starbase launch pad.
This was the second test flight of the fully integrated Starship, consisting of the Super Heavy first stage launch vehicle and the Starship upper stage spacecraft. The first start, which took place on April 20 this year, did not go so well. Starship’s launch in April ended with a self-destruct command issued about four minutes into the flight, turning the tumbling rocket into a smoldering fireball.
One of the reasons for the unplanned dismantling in April was that Starship’s two stages could not be separated. To prevent this problem from recurring on the second flight, SpaceX decided to implement a new strategy: “hot staging,” in which the upper stage engines begin firing before Starship and Super Heavy separate completely. This concept is not new; It was used in vehicles such as Titan II in NASA’s Gemini program in the 1960s and on the famous Russian Soyuz rocket, which is still in use.
Starship’s stage separation occurred on time at approximately 2 minutes and 41 seconds after liftoff and appeared to go smoothly, but the super-heavy booster exploded shortly thereafter.
“We’ll take that data and refine the hot stage sequence and possibly improve the hardware itself for the next flight,” SpaceX quality manager Kate Tice said during the live webcast. SpaceX hoped to soft-land the Super Heavy in the Gulf of Mexico to test the entry and landing processes.
Starship’s upper stage continued flying for a short time after the stage separated. SpaceX hoped to establish signal reception with the spacecraft at a target altitude of about 150 miles (250 kilometers). But the vehicle’s telemetry disappeared about eight minutes after liftoff, near the end of its own post-stage separation record, and SpaceX mission managers, including CEO and founder Elon Musk, anxiously awaited live updates.
The spacecraft was not expected to reach a full orbit around Earth, instead flying in a suborbital orbit and landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii. “We’re not aiming for orbit today; “We’re targeting near orbit,” SpaceX operations engineer Siva Bharadwaj said, adding that the goal is “to get a thrust profile similar to what we need for orbit and get power at the same time.” ‘The level at which the ship must disperse to enter.’
It’s worth nothing that Starship’s second test mission flew longer and higher than the first test flight on April 20, which failed to make it past the liftoff phase and exploded. Therefore, SpaceX still considered the second attempt successful. The latest telemetry signal from Saturday’s launch recorded Starship’s altitude at 148 kilometers, or 91 miles, well above the 62-mile (100 km) field limit.
“Honestly, it was an incredibly successful day even though we dismantled both the super-heavy booster and the ship in a quick and unplanned manner,” Theis said. “This is great. We have a lot of data and it will all help us improve our next flight.”
SpaceX and the crowds on South Padre Island weren’t the only ones cheering for Starship. Many things depend on the success of SpaceX’s new rocket, including NASA’s schedule for astronauts’ return to the lunar surface.
For example, the space agency chose Starship as the lunar lander for the Artemis 3 mission, which is expected to take astronauts to the moon in late 2025 or early 2026. SpaceX’s plans for a massive rocket go well beyond the moon.
Source: Port Altele
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