After a successful lift-off from the launch pad at Starbase, the historic and huge SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy Booster failed to separate, leading to what SpaceX describes as a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” or RUD which is a fancy way of saying it explodes.
At launch, the tallest and most powerful launch vehicle ever built lifted off from the Boca Chica, Texas spaceport built by SpaceX. The massive rocket is powered by 33 Raptor engines; during liftoff, three failed to ignite. It is not yet known why those three engines failed to ignite.
About 90 seconds into flight, the Starship was to separate from its Super Heavy booster but that failed to happen. A short time later, the integrated Starship exploded, presumably due to commands from it’s automated self-destruct system.
While the rocket failed to separate, it did experience a successful launch, cleared the launch pad without damaging it, and made it through a region of maximum aerodynamic pressure whole.
SpaceX’s initial comments are limited to a few post-launch Tweets: “As if the flight test was not exciting enough, Starship experienced a rapid unscheduled disassembly before stage separation. With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multi-planetary. Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first integrated flight test of Starship!”
Starship was destined to explode one way or another after launch. Had it achieved orbital flight, it would have taken a 90 minute journey around the globe to the off-shore waters north of Hawaii. There, a controlled descent was to be performed before an explosive crash-landing was made on the surface of the Pacific Ocean there.
“I’m not saying it will get to orbit but I am guaranteeing excitement,” said SpaceX founder Elon Musk in a call with financers and reporters weeks ago. “It won’t be boring.”
“This is a very difficult program,” Musk added during the March call. “Hopefully (it has) above a 50 percent chance of reaching orbit.” Musk also mentioned that he believes Starship has an 80% chance of reaching orbit this year. However, it may be a few years before the Starship program can achieve full reusability, which Musk described as “the profound breakthrough that is needed to extend life beyond Earth.”
After today’s excitement at Starbase, Musk Tweeted that they will attempt another launch in “a few months.”