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SpaceX's Starship Makes Major Steps Forward with 2nd Test Flight


Starship launching on IFT-2 // Photo: SpaceX

At 7:02am CT/8:02am ET, SpaceX's Starship lifted off from Starbase in Texas on the first try. After an extremely smooth countdown, quick planned hold at T-40 seconds, and watching some marine traffic downrange, all 33 Raptor engines ignited carrying the 121m tall rocket off the launch mount. All first stage engines powered Starship to stage separation, a huge increase in Raptor reliability compared to previous test flights.


Starship hotstaging during flight // Photo: SpaceX

The big milestone to reach on this flight was the newly added Hotstaging mechanism, allowing Starship's 9 engines to startup before releasing the booster to preform its flip and boostback burn. This performed perfectly, allowing both stages to separate cleanly, except the first stage was terminated shortly after the boostback burn was initiated. It has not been confirmed why this happened, but multiple engines didn't ignite during the flip and some shutdown after starting. Pieces of Raptor engines flew away from the aft of the booster a few seconds before the Automatic Flight Termination System (AFTS) was activated.


Starship continued pushing on toward the planned trajectory that would bring it to reenter near Hawaii. Close to the end of the burn, plumes started to expel from the aft of Starship and was then terminated by the AFTS terminated the flight at T+8 Minutes and 5 seconds.

Starship on acesent this morning // Photo: SpaceX

This test, while not fully successful, completed all the fixes that were made from the failures of IFT-1. The Water cooled steel plate helped the launch pad stay together, hot staging separated the 2 stages without issues, and Raptor reliability has dramatically increased. The FAA has opened a mishap investigation due to the unintentional loss of both vehicles, this time around should be quicker than the last time.


Starship and Superheavy have made huge progress over the last year, and this flight has proved the reliability of the vehicles despite being terminated. NASA has invested in this system for the Artemis program, so a lot is riding on the success of it.


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