On November 18th at 7:02am CT, SpaceX launched the second integrated flight test of Starship.
An eventful morning at Starbase Texas this morning the SpaceX Starship team celebrated the launch of the second integrated flight test of Starship, marking a substantial leap forward in the development of returning humans to deep space. At 7:02 am CT, Starship 25, accompanied by Booster 9, lifted off from the launch pad, showcasing the power of all 33 Raptor engines on the booster—a historic moment as it marked the first time all engines ignited and successfully powered to stage separation.
Booster 9 debued a new electric Thrust Vector Controller (TVC) system, outshining the hydraulic TVC utilized on Booster 7 during the initial integrated flight test (IFT 1) in April earlier this year.
A notable feature of this launch was the introduction of SpaceX's new hot staging separation method. Distinct from Falcon 9's hydraulic pushers, hot staging involves the first stage shutting down most of its engines while the ship lights all six of its Raptors to accelerate away from the top of the booster.
To safeguard the launch pad from the intense power of Super Heavy's 33 Raptor engines, a water-cooled plate was incorporated into the design of the launch pad. Activated a few moments before liftoff, the plate effectively shields the pad from Starship's engines.
Fueling operations commenced a few hours before launch, with a brief hold at T-40 seconds to carry out pre-launch checkouts. At T-5 seconds, the water-cooled plate was activated, protecting the pad from Starship's ignition.
Starship powered through Max Q, and executed a successful hot staging event. Unfortunately, Booster 9 visibly faced issues during its attempted relight for a boost-back, resulting in the Flight Termination System (FTS) terminating the vehicle.
Ship 25 continued its journey past hot staging, reaching an impressive T+ 8 minutes and 10 seconds into flight. A brief flash observed on SpaceX's livestream indicated a potential termination by the FTS. If the mission had progressed further, Ship 25 would have coasted for around an hour and a half before attempting to reenter over Hawaii.
Despite the challenges faced, the second integrated flight test outperformed IFT-1, with Starship reaching approximately 150 km above Earth's surface, compared to IFT-1's ascent of only 39 km. The data collected from this test will contribute to SpaceX's development of Starship, enhancing their capabilities for later flights.
Todays flight reinforces SpaceX's rapid and iterative development strategy, a crucial component of their goal to make life multiplanetary.