Today at 14:03 CET, SpaceX’s largest transport system Starship took off from the spaceport in Boca Chica in the US state of Texas for its second test flight. The spacecraft successfully separated from the Super Heavy launch vehicle, but instead of descending vertically into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it exploded. The Starship successfully ignited its rocket engines and reached the edge of space for the first time, but the company then lost contact with it. It is also believed to have exploded.
The first test flight ended in an explosion in April this year four minutes after liftoff when the carrier stage failed to separate from the second stage, the spacecraft. SpaceX called it a “rapid unplanned deployment” at the time, and the same words were heard in a live broadcast regarding the Super Heavy today.
The Starship spacecraft then successfully ignited its rocket engines and reached the edge of space for the first time on its eastward journey, but eight minutes after liftoff it stopped transmitting data. At that moment, it reached a speed of over 24,000 kilometers per hour and a height of 148 kilometers from the earth’s surface.
“We’ve lost data from the second stage … we think we may have lost the second stage,” Reuters quoted SpaceX livestream host John Insprucker as saying.
According to the original plan, the rocket from the Starbase spaceport was supposed to head east across the Gulf of Mexico and circle almost the entire Earth to the Hawaiian Islands in about 90 minutes.
The launch vehicle and its own spacecraft together measure 121 meters, which is roughly twice the height of Prague’s Petřín Observatory. The system is thus far the largest of its kind. The Starship can carry up to 100 people or 150 tons of cargo. It is also the most powerful system – the carrier is powered by 33 Raptor rocket engines, and the spacecraft by six other units.