After months of waiting, SpaceX made its second attempt at an orbital flight this past Saturday (November 18th). During their previous attempt, which occurred back in April, a fully-stacked Starship (SN24) and Super Heavy (BN7) prototypes managed to make it off the landing pad and reach an altitude of about 40 km (25 miles) above sea level. Unfortunately, the SN24 failed to separate from the BN7 booster a few minutes into the flight, causing the vehicle to fall into an uncontrolled tumble and forcing the ground teams to detonate the onboard charges.
Things went better this time as the SN25 and BN9 prototypes took off at about 7:00 AM local time (8:00 AM EDT; 05:00 AM PDT) from the Starbase launch complex. The SN25 successfully separated from its booster two minutes and fifty seconds later – at an altitude of 70 km (43 mi) – and reached an altitude of about 148 kilometers (92 miles), just shy of SpaceX’s goal of 150 km (~93 mi). However, the booster stage was lost about 30 seconds after separation, exploding over the Gulf of Mexico. The SN25 also exploded about eight minutes into the flight, reportedly because its flight termination system was activated.
Space exploration should never be run of the mill nor something that finds itself on the back pages of the newspaper. Captain James T. Kirk was right that space really is the final frontier and making it more accessible is one of the driving forces behind SpaceX. Their mission to seek out new life and new civilisations, wait that’s wrong – that’s Starfleet. The SpaceX mission ‘to revolutionise space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets is at the forefront of the development of the enormous Starship which may make another launch attempt as soon as this Friday 17th November.
It was an exciting time when, two weeks ago, SpaceX got the clearance it needed to conduct its first orbital flight test with the Starshipand Super Heavy launch system. After years of waiting, SN flight tests, static fire tests, and stacking and unstacking, the long-awaited test of the SN24 Starship and BN7 Booster prototype was on! For this flight, SpaceX hoped to achieve an altitude of at least 150 km (90 mi) above sea level, crossing the 100 km (62 mi) threshold that officially marks the boundary of “space” (aka. the Karman Line) and making a partial transit around the world before splashing down off the coast of Hawaii.
Unfortunately, things began to go awry a few minutes into the flight as the Starship prototype failed to separate from the booster, sending the rocket into a spin that ended in an explosion. While Musk and SpaceX issued statements that the test was largely successful and lots of valuable data was obtained, residents and environmental researchers claim the explosion caused damage to houses in the area and the local environment. In response, the FAA has launched a “mishap investigation,” temporarily grounding the Starship until the explosion’s impact can be assessed.
SpaceX’s Starship launch system lifted off on its first full-scale test flight today, rising majestically from its Texas launch pad but falling short of stage separation.
The uncrewed mission represented the most ambitious test yet for the world’s most powerful rocket — which eventually could send people to the moon and Mars, and even between spaceports on our own planet.
Liftoff from SpaceX’s Starbase complex at Boca Chica on the South Texas coast came at 8:33 a.m. CDT (9:33 a.m. EDT). The Starship system’s Super Heavy booster, powered by 33 methane-fueled Raptor rocket engines, rose into clear skies with a deafening roar and a blazing pillar of flame.
Hundreds of SpaceX employees cheered at the company’s California headquarters, but the crowd turned quiet three minutes into the flight when the Starship upper stage failed to separate from the booster as planned. The entire rocket spun in the air as a ground-based camera watched.
A minute later, SpaceX’s flight termination system destroyed both stages of the rocket as a safety measure. “Obviously, we wanted to make it all the way through, but to get this far, honestly, is amazing,” launch commentator Kate Tice said.
It’s been a long road, but it looks as though SpaceX may finally be ready for an orbital flight test with the Starship and Super Heavy. After months of waiting, static fire tests, stacking, and restacking, Elon Musk announced on March 16th that SpaceX could be ready to go with the SN24 and BN7 prototypes in “a few weeks,” pending approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Musk announced via Twitter, saying, “launch timing depends on FAA license approval. Assuming that takes a few weeks, first launch attempt will be near end of third week of April, aka…”
Things are heating up again at the SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas! With so many static fire and flight tests now behind them and the FAA environmental assessment complete, space exploration enthusiasts have wondered when Elon Musk would attempt to conduct an orbital flight with the Starship prototype. As of Tuesday, October 11th, the Starship 24 (SN24) and Booster 7 (BN7) prototypes were once again seen fully stacked on the orbital launch pad, leading many to wonder if the long-awaited orbital flight is imminent!
Engineers and technicians at the SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, are working on getting the fully-stacked Starship and Super Heavy prototypes ready for their orbital launch test. The most recent step consisted of a static fire test with the BN7 Super Heavy prototype, where the booster was placed on the orbital launch pad and fired one of its thirty-three Raptor 2 engines. News of the test was shared via SpaceX’s official Twitter account and showed the BN7 blasting the launch pad, leading many to wonder what the orbital launch test will look like!
Not long ago, SpaceX passed their Programmatic Environmental Assessment (PEA) with the FAA, though many corrective actions were recommended. With this hurdle in its rearview mirror, SpaceX is busy preparing the Starship and Super Heavy prototypes for their orbital test flight. On Saturday (July 2nd), the company posted pictures on its Twitter feed that showed the Starship (SN24) and Super Heavy booster (BN7) outfitted with all the Raptor engines – 33 Raptors for the BN7, 6 for SN24 – that will take them to space.
Remember Mechazilla, that tall launch tower at the SpaceX Starbase in Texas that will stack Starships and “catch” spent Super Heavy boosters? SpaceX began constructing an identical launch tower at Cape Canaveral in Florida, where Starships will also be launching from soon. This tower is taking shape alongside SpaceX’s Launch Complex-39A (LC-39A) facilities at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Once complete, the launch tower will stand about 146 meters (~480 ft) in height, making it the second-tallest space-related structure on the East Coast, second to NASA’s massive Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB).
SpaceX has enjoyed a lot of wins in the past few years. In addition to successfully glide-testing and landing multiple Starship prototypes, they’ve rolled out its first Super Heavy boosters, test-fired the new Raptor Vacuum engines, and assembled the “Mechazilla” launch tower at Boca Chica, Texas. They also unveiled the first fully-furbished orbital test vehicle (SN20) that was stacked with a first stage booster for the first time on its launch pad.
Given the prodigious rate of progress, few were surprised when Musk announced that the first orbital flight test could take place as soon as January 2022. Unfortunately, this date had to be pushed back to an environmental assessment and the usual bureaucratic rigmarole. However, Musk recently announced on Twitter that in light of his company’s success with the new Raptor engines, they could be ready to conduct the long-awaited orbital test flight this May.