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Countdown to Liftoff: SpaceX's Starship Aims for Successful Test Flight


Starship and Superheavy stacked before IFT-2 // Photo: SpaceX

Almost 7 months since the first Integrated Flight Test of SpaceX's Starship/Superheavy rocket, it once again stands tall on Stage 0 at Starbase in Texas. This 2 stage super heavy launch vehicle measures in at 121 meters tall and 9 meters in diameter, and is part of NASA's Artemis program to send humans to the Moon to stay.


The first launch of this rocket was on April 20th, 2023 at 8:33am Central Time, climbing to an apogee of 39km off the coast of Texas. Shortly after lifting off, the 33 Raptor engines on the Super Heavy booster tore apart the concrete below the launch mount, significantly damaging essential launch infrastructure. During ascent, multiple engines started to fail and damage hardware used to gimbal, or steer, the entire rocket during flight. 3 Minutes after launch, the Flight Termination System (FTS) was triggered to explosively disassemble the rocket during flight as the entire vehicle began to tumble out of control. This termination of the flight took approximately 40 seconds to end the flight, when this should've been an almost instant process.


Starship during Ascent on IFT-1 // Photo: SpaceX

Despite the failures during the first test flight, tons of data was collected and SpaceX didn't waste any time repairing launch infrastructure and began the long process with the FAA to re-certify Starship for the next launch. Multiple upgrades were made including:

  • Large water-cooled steel plate was installed under the launch mount, acting as a large shower head for heat and sound dampening

  • Hot-Stage ring between the Ship and Booster, allowing the ship's engines to ignite while the booster's engines are still running for a smoother separation

  • Electric gimbal system for the Raptor engines

  • Improvements to the Raptor engines


These upgrades to the entire system will help push toward a successful test flight, allowing for more development and refinement of the program as a whole.


Starship is how SpaceX will enable humans to setup a base on the Moon as well as Mars, and is working closely with NASA and the Human Landing System for the Artemis program.


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