April 20, 2023, will go down in history as the first time SpaceX launched a fully-integrated Starship –the world’s largest and most powerful rocket to ever soar into the sky. Starship lifted off at 8:33 a.m. Central Time from Starbase at Boca Chica Beach, Texas, with the power of 33 methane-fueled Raptor V2 engines that roared with intense force. Combined, the engines are capable of generating over 16.5 million pounds of thrust. The crowds cheered as they saw the Super Heavy stainless-steel vehicle climb up above the sandy beach to attempt to reach orbit, however, the voyage was cut short when the rocket-ship suddenly started to tumble, then exploded midair around 4 minutes into flight.
SpaceX revealed it intentionally caused Starship’s explosive demise by triggering its Flight Termination System (FTS) after multiple Raptor engines shut down unexpectedly during the first test flight. By commanding the vehicle to self-destruct the company prevents it from steering off course and causing destruction on the ground. The explosion happened over the ocean. “The vehicle cleared the pad and beach as Starship climbed to an apogee of ~39 km [kilometers] over the Gulf of Mexico – the highest of any Starship to-date. The vehicle experienced multiple engines out during the flight test, lost altitude, and began to tumble. The Flight Termination System was commanded on both the booster and ship,” shared the company in an update on its website.
Liftoff from Starbase pic.twitter.com/rgpc2XO7Z9— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 20, 2023
Starship liftoff in slow motion pic.twitter.com/KqHjqwP88Z— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 22, 2023
“With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and we learned a tremendous amount about the vehicle and ground systems today that will help us improve on future flights of Starship. Thank you to our customers, Cameron County, and the wider community for the continued support and encouragement. And congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first flight test of Starship!” the company stated. A TESMANIAN journalist had the opportunity to attend the launch, watch the flight from their perspective in the video linked below. Read the story: SpaceX performs Incredible test flight of first fully-integrated Starship, mission ends with Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly
4/20 View of SpaceX Starship first-ever launch attempt to orbit from Isla Blanca at South Padre Island, Texas. It was AMAZING!! Congrats on lifting off the Starbase launchpad!! @elonmusk @SpaceX— Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo (@JaneidyEve) April 20, 2023
via @Tesmanian_com pic.twitter.com/1tvT5vQSDn
SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared on Twitter that they learned a lot from the test flight and that the next Starship test vehicle could lift off from South Texas in around one or two months, after teams fix the damage the 33 Raptors force caused on the launch pad mount. “3 months ago, we started building a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount. Wasn’t ready in time & we wrongly thought, based on static fire data, that Fondag [concrete] would make it through 1 launch. Looks like we can be ready to launch again in 1 to 2 months,” shared Musk via Twitter on April 21. “All that’s left of the concrete lateral support beam is the rebar! Hopefully, this didn’t gronk the launch mount,” wrote Musk in response to images of the launch mount damage, pictured below.
All that’s left of the concrete lateral support beam is the rebar! Hopefully, this didn’t gronk the launch mount.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 21, 2023
3 months ago, we started building a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 21, 2023
Wasn’t ready in time & we wrongly thought, based on static fire data, that Fondag would make it through 1 launch.
Looks like we can be ready to launch again in 1 to 2 months.
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Featured Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.