Discover What Went Wrong with SpaceX’s Starship Launches
SpaceX is gearing up for its third Starship launch, following a series of trials and a major success.
The company’s teams are diligently preparing for a launch scheduled at the end of February 2023. This follows previous launches using the Starship and Super Heavy B9 and S25, which ended in explosions. Meanwhile, NASA is eagerly anticipating the use of the Starship for its Artemis lunar plan.
Recollections of the First Starship Launch
The first Starship launch took place in April 2023. Although the launch was successful, it resulted in extensive damage to the launch site. Subsequent environmental investigations and repair work lasted an entire quarter. The launch faced several issues as engines failed, the second stage didn’t separate and backup systems didn’t activate, eventually leading to a self-explosion.
Second Launch: A Significant Achievement
The second launch, on the other hand, marked a major success for SpaceX. The Super Heavy was launched with 33 engines without leaving behind any major debris. Despite exploding on its return attempt, the Super Heavy performed as planned. The Starship reached a 100 km altitude but exploded seconds before the end of the propulsion phase.
Looking Ahead: The Third Starship Launch
The upcoming third launch will see the deployment of Starship S28 and booster B10. The objective of this mission is to gather maximum data and confirmations. The plans for this launch include demonstrating a controlled return of the Super Heavy to Earth, continuing Starship’s acceleration to simulate orbital flight and an attempt to transfer propellants between two initially sealed tanks.
Progress on Ground facilities
On the ground, facilities are being upgraded continuously. The old facilities from 2020-2021 have been dismantled in preparation for a second launch site. Components are being moved from Florida to Texas, with SpaceX testing stages away from launch facilities near the Boca Chica village. ‘Starfactory’, the company’s production facility, is undergoing constant improvements and expansions.
As SpaceX waits for the green light for its upcoming launches, the FAA is closely examining the company’s plans. Currently, the FAA considers Starship flights as prototype demonstrations, which means they are regulated on a case-by-case basis. It takes into account previous flight failures and gives recommendations for improvements.
The Future of Starship
Looking forward, SpaceX might deploy a more powerful version of the Starship. CEO Elon Musk hinted at an improved, more reliable and efficient Starship design. Industry rumors suggest that these changes will come into effect after the S32 model. In addition, Musk has also teased a potential design change, with the Starship model possibly becoming 20-30 meters longer.