SpaceX’s Starship Faces Unexpected Detonation Mid-Flight: A Bold Leap with a Sudden End

November 19, 2023
1 min read
SpaceX's Starship
SpaceX's Starship. Source: Space X

After a successful liftoff and separation, SpaceX lost touch with Starship. A SpaceX official said an automated termination system onboard Starship was likely triggered, and the spacecraft appeared to have detonated. It was a mostly successful second outing for SpaceX’s next-generation Starship megarocket.

The nearly 400-foot-tall unscrewed rocket lifted off at 8 am ET, and while SpaceX pulled off several major objectives, they ultimately lost contact with Starship around 10 minutes after takeoff. Few details are known at this time, but during a livestream of the event, one SpaceX official said an automated termination system onboard Starship was likely triggered, and the spacecraft appeared to have detonated.

“We have lost the data from the second stage… we think we may have lost the second stage,” said SpaceX’s livestream host John Insprucker. The event was live-streamed on SpaceX’s website and on X, the social media platform owned by Elon Musk. In a social media post, SpaceX stated that the core Starship stage’s engines “fired for several minutes on its way to space.”

Bill Nelson, head of the NASA space agency, said Saturday’s attempt showed progress. “Congrats to the teams who made progress on today’s flight test,” he said on X, formerly Twitter. “Spaceflight is a bold adventure demanding a can-do spirit and daring innovation. Today’s test is an opportunity to learn — then fly again.”

The second launch was more successful than the company’s first attempt in April, and any data gathered from today will be used to influence future modifications to the rocket. The Federal Aviation Administration will oversee a “mishap” investigation into the flight before SpaceX can launch another Starship rocket.

Still, SpaceX was able to achieve more milestones during this flight compared to its first attempt earlier in the year. The debut launch of Starship in April ended in a huge explosion mere minutes into the flight. The incident prompted a safety review and drew intense scrutiny over damage to the local environment around SpaceX’s Starbase test site in Boca Chica, Texas.

The Starship rocket is a critical part of NASA’s ambitions to return to the moon. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has also said Starship could be used for missions to Mars. NASA head Bill Nelson offered congratulations to the SpaceX team on the test flight. Elon Musk too has congratulated the SpaceX team.

Govind Tekale

Embarking on a new journey post-retirement, Govind, once a dedicated teacher, has transformed his enduring passion for current affairs and general knowledge into a conduit for expression through writing. His historical love affair with reading, which borders on addiction, has evolved into a medium to articulate his thoughts and disseminate vital information. Govind pens down his insights on a myriad of crucial topics, including the environment, wildlife, energy, sustainability, and health, weaving through every aspect that is quintessential for both our existence and that of our planet. His writings not only mirror his profound understanding and curiosity but also serve as a valuable resource, offering a deep dive into issues that are critical to our collective future and well-being.

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