Second Starship launch attempt: the rocket explodes in flight
Eva Deschamps / April 22, 2023
This should be a great day for SpaceX. It will be remembered as a failure. On Thursday, April 20, the Starship rocket disintegrated in flight, four minutes after liftoff. The ignition had already been interrupted, nearly 40 seconds before the ignition of the engines. SpaceX will have to rebuild a new rocket before trying again.
During the retransmission, the team in charge of commenting this mission - to go around the Earth - had begun to report an abnormal behavior of the launcher, a few minutes after the Starship's liftoff. Indeed, the first stage of the spacecraft, nicknamed Super Heavy, obviously failed to disengage from the upper stage - made of the Starship.
As a result, the rocket ended up following an erratic trajectory, at nearly 2,000 km/h. After a series of uncontrolled loops, the Starship finally burst into flames and exploded in midair. By this time, the rocket had managed to rise to an altitude of nearly 30 kilometers.
On Twitter, SpaceX recorded this failure, describing it as a RUD ("rapid unscheduled disassembly") that occurred before the separation between the two stages. This is a formula that SpaceX and Elon Musk use occasionally when things go wrong. Nevertheless, the company is optimistic: at least the rocket has taken off.
"Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on this first integrated flight test of Starship," the group wrote on Twitter. Now it's time to review the flight data and prepare for a future flight test. This test will not have been for nothing: it will allow to improve the reliability of the launcher, until the day when it will be able to go to Hawaii: it is the destination planned with this test.
On this flight, the Starship was to travel in orbit around the Earth for an hour and a half. The mission, starting from the company's base in Texas, was to end in Hawaii. The launch vehicle was to pass near the coast of South America, over the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, and Indonesia.
The next attempt should take place in a few months, according to Elon Musk. The schedule of the American company becomes, de facto, more complicated. On paper, SpaceX is supposed to provide an operational Starship rocket for December 2025. It is indeed on this date that astronauts will have to land on the Moon. However, this lunar landing is precisely planned with the Starship.