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SpaceX Starship Experiences Anomaly In Flight

This morning, SpaceX's Starship took to the South Texas skies for the first time in its fully integrated form.

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Jay Keegan

Jay Keegan

Thu Apr 20 2023Written by Jay Keegan



This morning, SpaceX's Starship took to the South Texas skies for the first time in its fully integrated form. While the vehicle was terminated, the team gathered an immense amount of data to move forward and upgrade systems for future launches.


The Countdown

The countdown to launch was very smooth with no major issues in work. The team, located in the Stargate facility, worked through their procedures to ready the vehicle for flight as early as 08:28 CDT.

At T-2 hours, the SpaceX team conducted their go/no go poll - with a "GO" result in the bag, they progressed into propellant loading which begun 21 minutes later. Throughout the fuelling operation, the countdown nets were quiet with no delays throughout the morning.

At T-40 minutes, SpaceX begun their live coverage and we checked in with the SpaceX webcast team - the honourable John Insprucker, Kate Tice, and Siva Bharadvaj, who provided a status on the countdown and provided insight into the historic mission.

The countdown continues nominally, passing the T-40 seconds possible hold point, however, at approximately T-26 seconds the clock stopped, and the SpaceX team in Hawthorne sighed. This hold, which lasted for approximately 5 minutes was to allow the launch team to clear the status board of issues being tracked and getting pressures up to the correct value for liftoff.

This hold was short lived however, after just 5 minutes, John gave an update that the team would be resuming the clock at T-40s momentarily. And resume the clock they did.

Now we enter the "business end" of the countdown - teams in SpaceX's HQ located in Hawthorne, California, were cheering as the SpaceX Flight Director counted down.


LIFTOFF (Excitement Fulfilled)

Credit: SpaceX

What a sight to see - the worlds most powerful rocket took to the skies after years of hard work! While 5 raptors were lost along the way (more than the system can handle with engine out capabilities), the team gathered a tremendous amount of data.

The team in Hawthorne continued cheering, and the FD was completely inaudible over the crowd, but as Starship slowly cleared the Orbital Launch Integration Tower (OLIT), flight objectives were being checked off with every second that passed. The minimum goal for SpaceX was to clear the tower, and they done so with ease.


Loss Of Vehicle

Credit: SpaceX

At approx. T+3 minutes, the first stage entered an unplanned continuous spin. While a flip was planned, the vehicle continued to rotate following the flip. This resulted in the activation on the Automated Flight Termination System, or AFTS, activating to ensure public safety.

In a statement to TLP, the FAA confirms the termination of the vehicle was automated, saying "SpaceX reported to the FAA the Autonomous Flight Termination System activated as intended."


At the time of writing, the cause of failure has not yet been confirmed by SpaceX, and the team is working through the data gathered to determine the root cause, and implement corrective measures prior to the next flight test. Additionally, teams will work to restore stage 0 to a fully functional state with damage reported on the pad itself, with a crater under the OLM, as well as dents in the tank farm cryo shells. The latter, however, should be a simple fix of "popping it out", but we will be monitoring SpaceX's work closely and provide updates.


Boca Chica Beach and Highway 4 will remain closed until at least tomorrow, April 21st, to allow the SpaceX team to clean up the area which suffered major damage from the launch.


Congratulations SpaceX

SpaceX team in Hawthorne


Congratulations to the entire SpaceX teams from the Launch Director, engineers, and even the staff who are not involved in the mission but are vital to SpaceX operations. You have all worked tirelessly to make humanity a multiplanetary species and should be incredibly proud of today's launch.