The rocket from the US space company SpaceX initially successfully lifted off from the Texas spaceport Starbase on Saturday – but exploded after take-off and separation from its propulsion stage, as the company announced. The test was broadcast live on Twitter (X):
The first test flight in April had already failed, when the rocket tumbled and was blown up in the air. A SpaceX spokesman called the test flight an “incredibly successful day” despite the “rapid unplanned disassembly” of the propulsion stage and rocket. Unlike the first test flight in April, the giant rocket successfully separated from the propulsion stage during this attempt. But then the propulsion stage exploded first and shortly afterwards the spacecraft itself – instead of falling into the Pacific near Hawaii after 90 minutes as planned. There was initially no further information about the reasons for the explosion.
Video: The start is still working according to plan
- From the archive: Video shows Starship rocket explosion in April
Starship is the most powerful rocket ever built and, with a height of 120 meters, the largest. It is intended to make space missions more cost-effective through the reusability of its two stages. SpaceX boss Elon Musk wants to use it to take people to Mars one day. The US space agency NASA wants to use them for its Artemis lunar landing mission.
NASA boss Bill Nelson said Saturday’s test flight showed progress. “Congratulations to the teams who made progress in today’s test flight,” Nelson wrote on the former Twitter service X. “Space travel is a bold adventure that requires a hands-on attitude and daring innovations. Today’s test is an opportunity to learn – and then fly again.”
“It was a fantastic partial success,” space researcher Laura Forczyk told the AFP news agency. “It exceeded my expectations.”
The first test ended after four minutes
The first test flight on April 20 at SpaceX’s Starbase spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas, failed spectacularly. The Starship went into a tailspin when several engines failed and the rocket’s first stage failed to separate from the second stage. SpaceX therefore detonated the rocket in mid-air four minutes after its launch.
The rocket exploded in a fireball, the ash cloud of which was blown to a city several kilometers away. The force of the rocket engines sent chunks of concrete flying through the air and a fire broke out in a local park. The launch attempt resulted in a months-long investigation by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and SpaceX had to make various revisions. On Wednesday, the FAA gave SpaceX the green light for its second launch attempt despite protests from environmentalists.
FAA opened investigation
A lawsuit is pending against the FAA over the first Starship launch attempt. Several environmental organizations accuse the authority of not correctly assessing the environmental risks posed by the new giant rocket.
The FAA said it was also launching an investigation into the “mishap” during Saturday’s second test launch to “identify corrective actions to prevent a recurrence.” No damage to property or injuries were reported.
Space scientist Forczyk said the company has made “more progress” in this effort than it did in April. She expects that after this test flight, SpaceX will get the green light from the authorities to start again more quickly.
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