SpaceX has released some stunning images of its Starship rocket heading skyward during its second integrated test flight on Saturday.
The images (below) show the 33 Raptor engines of the first-stage Super Heavy booster as the world’s most powerful space vehicle blasted off the launchpad at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas, creating around 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 achieved successful separation from the Super Heavy booster about 2 minutes and 50 seconds into the flight.
However, about 30 seconds later the first-stage booster experienced what SpaceX described as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly.” In other words, it blew up.
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 April’s effort. Engineers will now examine every aspect of Saturday’s flight to help refine the system before it goes again.
NASA is watching SpaceX’s work on the Starship with great interest as it could one day use it to send astronauts on missions to deep space. It has already inked 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.
Posting on social media shortly after Saturday’s test flight, NASA chief Bill Nelson congratulated the SpaceX teams “who made progress on today’s flight test,” adding: “Spaceflight is a bold adventure demanding a can-do spirit and daring innovation. Today’s test is an opportunity to learn — then fly again. Together, NASA and SpaceX will return humanity to the moon, Mars, and beyond.”