“So far today has been incredibly successful, even with the RUD of the Super Heavy booster,” Kate Tice, SpaceX quality systems engineer, said on the company’s webcast.
But before Starship could reach orbit, SpaceX mission control lost contact with it and stopped receiving data. Approximately 12 minutes into the flight, SpaceX activated the automated flight termination system; they had to abort and subject the second stage to RUD as well.
If Starship had flown successfully, it would have reached an altitude of approximately 146 miles and was scheduled to land around 8:30 Central Time off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
This is the second time a Starship test flight got off to a promising start, but failed within minutes of flight. According to a statement in the company website, SpaceX later determined that in the first minutes of the April flight, propellant leaked from the Super Heavy booster and caused fires that severed the connection to the main flight computer. That’s why the upper stage and booster failed to separate, SpaceX concluded. The engineers lost control of the vehicle and had to abort, exploding the rocket with the flight termination system.
The brief first test flight on April 20 “provided numerous lessons learned,” SpaceX officials said. said in a statement posted on the company’s website on November 10. The April explosion destroyed the launch pad, causing what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described as a “rock tornado” and debris rained down on the surrounding area. As a result, SpaceX and the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted a joint “mishap investigation.” Officials from NASA and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board served as observers. The FAA completed that process on September 8, stating that SpaceX had to Address 63 topics. to mitigate debris, redesign the vehicle’s hardware to prevent fires and leaks, and redesign the launch pad before Starship could fly again.
SpaceX’s subsequent upgrades to the rocket included “a hot stage separation system and an electronic thrust vector control system for the Super Heavy engines,” and its upgrades to the launch infrastructure included “base reinforcements.” of the platform and a water-cooled steel flame deflector.” ”according to the November 10 statement.
Meanwhile, as part of the process, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was asked to investigate the local environmental effects of the improved Boca Chica launch site, which is adjacent to a wildlife refuge and beach. public. The agency began that review in October. Several threatened and endangered species live in the area, including the Gulf Coast jaguarundi, ocelot, five species of sea turtles, and birds such as the plover, red sandpiper, and northern aplomado hawk.