SpaceX has released some stunning images of its Starship rocket heading skyward during its second integrated test flight on Saturday.
Images (below) show the 33 Raptor engines of the first stage Super Heavy booster firing as the world’s most powerful spacecraft lifted off from the launchpad at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas, generating approximately 17 million pounds of thrust in the process.
SpaceX boss Elon Musk also shared some dramatic aerial footage (below) showing the 400-foot-tall Starship rocket at the start of Saturday’s test flight.
Unlike the first test flight in April, this time the second stage Starship spacecraft successfully achieved separation from the Super Heavy booster about 2 minutes and 50 seconds into flight.
However, about 30 seconds later the first stage booster experienced what SpaceX described as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly”. In other words, it exploded.
The spacecraft also failed to complete its flight.
Despite the losses, SpaceX considered the test mission a success for achieving stage separation and lasting longer than the April attempt. Engineers will now examine every aspect of Saturday’s flight to help fine-tune the systems before flying again.
NASA is watching SpaceX’s work on Starship with great interest because it could one day use it to send astronauts on missions into deep space. It has already signed a deal with SpaceX to use a modified version of the Starship spacecraft to carry two astronauts from lunar orbit to the moon’s surface in the Artemis III mission, currently scheduled for 2025.
NASA chief Bill Nelson posted on social media shortly after Saturday’s test flight congratulated The SpaceX teams “that made progress in today’s flight test,” added: “Spaceflight is a bold adventure that demands a can-do spirit and bold innovation. Today’s test is an opportunity to learn – to fly again. Ka. Together, NASA and SpaceX will take humanity to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.