SpaceX Reveals the Success of Second Starship Test Flight Including 33-engine Burn Among Others

On Nov. 18, SpaceX launched its Starship Megarocket on a test flight from Starbase. SpaceX just released an update revealing why the starship exploded during the test flight. However, there was a lot to light about the second-ever starship test flight.

The company hoped to send its Starship’s 165-foot-tall (50-meter) upper stage around Earth from Starbase to a patch of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. However, the Starship exploded about 8 minutes after launch due to loss of signal, while the Super Heavy booster’s first stage exploded shortly after separation at about 4.5 minutes earlier.

Even though the most powerful rocket ever launched by humans ended in disaster, SpaceX still noted several milestones attained by the spaceship.

Success Achieved during the Second-Ever Starship Test Flight

After the second starship test flight ended with the explosion of the upper stage about eight minutes into the mission, the SpaceX team commenced with investigation to get more details about the mission. The team was able to make the following notable observations.

1. 33 Engine Burn during second-ever starship test flight

During the first test flight in April this year, some raptor engines failed to ignite during the ascend. However, SpaceX was able to record great success during its second test flight with the fire-up of the entire 33 engines from the start.

In fact, the company checked the box of success with future test flights as this primary challenge of the first test flight has been successfully resolved.

“All 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy Booster started up successfully and, for the first time, completed a full-duration burn during ascent,” SpaceX wrote in a recent mission update.

During future test flights, we should expect SpaceX to keep all 33 Raptor engines running on the Super Heavy Booster to meet the mission requirements.

2. Successful Separation/Hot Staging

During the first test flight in April, the Starship upper stage and the Super Heavy booster first stage exploded before they could separate. However, during the second test flight, SpaceX deployed a technique known as “hot staging” to achieve successful separation.

“About 2.5 minutes into the flight, Super Heavy began powering down all but three of Super Heavy’s Raptor engines and successfully igniting the six second-stage Raptor engines before separating the vehicles,” SpaceX wrote in the update. “This was the first time this technique has been done successfully with a vehicle of this size.”

Note that in “normal” staging, the upper-stage engines often ignite immediately after separation. However, the hot staging enabled the starship to ignite before the separation was completed.

3. Successful Flip Maneuver and A Boostback Engine Burn

SpaceX designed the Super Heavy booster to perform a flip maneuver and a boostback engine burn immediately after separation. The megarocket successfully formed this planned flip maneuver and ignited boostback engine burn intending to pilot itself to the water landing in the Gulf of Mexico.

However, the booster suffered a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” while making this attempt. The booster exploded about 3.5 minutes after launch.

4. Starship reached new Maximum Altitude and Top Speed

After the explosion of the booster, the starship continued with its journey. The upper stage’s six Raptors flew to the spaceship to a maximum altitude of about 90 miles (150 kilometers).

It also reached a top speed of about 14,900 mph (24,000 kph) according to the update released by SpaceX. The Starship nearly accomplished its planned full-duration burn. However, the telemetry was lost near the end of the second-stage burn.

“The flight test’s conclusion came when telemetry was lost near the end of second-stage burn prior to engine cutoff after more than eight minutes of flight,” SpaceX wrote in the update. “The team verified a safe command destruct was appropriately triggered based on available vehicle performance data.”

The released update did not reveal the actual cause of the telemetry loss. However, SpaceX engineers will surely figure out the cause and prevent it before the next test flight.

Improvements Achieved by SpaceX So Far for Starship test flight

Starship during hot staging (Image Credit: SpaceX)

During the first test flight in April, some Super Heavy Raptors turned off during the early flight. The massive spaceship failed to separate as planned. Hence, the SpaceX team detonated the tumbling vehicle intentionally to avoid causing more hazards.

However, the spaceship reached a maximum altitude of about 24 miles (39 km) in its nearly four-minute flight. The first flight also caused some damage to parts of Starbase. These damages include blasting out a massive crater beneath the site’s orbital launch mount. In fact, before the second test flight, SpaceX installed a water-spewing steel plate beneath the mount to prevent the damage from recurring.

The good news is that the upgrade performed excellently as the launch mount survived the liftoff and remained in good shape, SpaceX wrote in the update.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is supervising SpaceX’s investigation to learn more about what actually happened during the second-ever test flight. Until now, no one could tell when the assessment will be over, or when the FAA will issue SpaceX another launch license. However, SpaceX remained optimistic about making the next launch attempt anytime soon.

“The team at Starbase is already working final preparations on the vehicles slated for use in Starship’s third flight test, with Ship and Booster static fires coming up next,” SpaceX wrote in the update, referring to brief tests that check out a spaceship’s engines in the leadup to launch.


SpaceX just released an update revealing why the starship exploded during the test flight. There was a lot to light about the second-ever starship test flight, the update wrote. What do you think about the starship’s second-ever test flight?

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