All the Times SpaceX’s Starship Has Exploded Into a Giant Fireball
- SpaceX launched its Starship and Super Heavy booster toward space for a second time on Saturday.
- The ship exploded, again. Five other prototypes have also blown up on previous test flights.
- SpaceX plans for the Starship-Super Heavy launch system to one day carry 100 people at a time to Mars to build the first settlement there.
The explosion, or rapid unscheduled disassembly, as they like to call it, came during the second test of the Starship and its attached Super Heavy booster. The first test, seven months ago, also ended badly.
But while on Saturday the ship exploded, the test could otherwise be considered a success. The ship climbed higher than before, detaching successfully from its Super Heavy Booster for the first time, reaching within seconds of entering orbit before it combusted.
In the first launch, the ship’s booster did not detach, causing it to plummet back to the Earth and explode in a fireball about three minutes after liftoff.
“What we do believe right now is that the automated flight termination system on second stage appears to have triggered very late in the [engine] burn as we were headed downrange out over the Gulf of Mexico,” SpaceX engineer John Insprucker said as the livestream concluded on Saturday.
Before the ship’s first test run, Musk said it had “about a 50% chance of reaching orbit.”
“I’m not saying it will get to orbit, but I am guaranteeing excitement,” Musk said in an interview at the Morgan Stanley Conference in March.
Watch the first rocket’s nail-biting final minutes in the video below:
SpaceX is no stranger to exploding Starships. The company first tested the spaceship’s unprecedented ability to launch and land itself in 2020, and four of the early prototypes flew into the Texas skies and exploded, crashed to the ground in a fireball, or exploded in flames after landing.
There are some spectacular photos and video footage from before and during each incident.
In that first test flight, on December 9, 2020, a Starship prototype called Starship serial no. 8, or SN8, soared about 7 miles above SpaceX’s Texas facilities. It hovered at the peak of its flight for about 30 seconds, then cut its engine and belly-flopped toward the ground.
The rocket reignited its engines in an attempt to quickly turn itself upright. But it wasn’t powerful enough, and it slammed into the concrete landing pad, crumpling and exploding.
The next prototype, SN9, met a similar fate just a few months later on February 2, 2021. This time, though, it seemed that one engine was faulty, causing the ship to lean to its other side and hit a concrete pad at an angle, exploding its remaining fuel reserves.
The third prototype, SN10, landed in one piece on March 3, 2021. But a fire persisted around the rocket’s skirt. About 10 minutes after landing, an explosion thrust the rocket back into the air and slammed it back to the ground.
Later that month, on March 30, SpaceX’s fourth attempt, SN11, also blew up, raining down debris. SpaceX cut out its broadcast before that happened, but a live feed from NASASpaceflight showed debris falling around the foggy pad.
—IndSamachar News (@Indsamachar) March 30, 2021
Now the company may have to undergo a similar process of trial-and-error with Starship atop its Super Heavy booster. There could be more explosions to come before the historic launch system reaches space.