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SpaceX Staff Cheer over Starship’s Success, Despite Spectacular “Flight Termination” over Texas

SpaceX Staff Cheer over Starship’s Success, Despite Spectacular “Flight Termination” over Texas

American media seemed quick to cheer the explosion, assuming Team Musk’s mission had failed.

SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket launched on its second attempt this Thursday. The rocket then exploded minutes after clearing the launch pad during the flight test.

Despite the end result, SpaceX staff cheered as the event met specific milestones for the development of the system.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket — which could one day carry humans to the moon and Mars — made it some four minutes and 24 miles into the sky before it exploded during its inaugural test flight on Thursday.

And yet, even as they watched the world’s largest rocket burst into a fireball, SpaceX employees still roared with cheers and applause.

That’s because the whole point of a test is to figure out what does and doesn’t work, experts say.

Thursday’s launch was hailed as “a real accomplishment” and “so successful” by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and retired International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield, respectively. SpaceX agreed.

“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,” SpaceX later tweeted.

The explosion was not accidental. The “flight termination” sequence began after the Starship veered off course and the boosters failed to separate.

Starship was veering off its planned trajectory, the company said. SpaceX and FAA have procedures in place to keep a rocket from injuring people or damaging property.

“Starship gave us quite a show during today’s first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket from Starbase in Texas,” SpaceX said in statement.

The company said multiple engines were out and therefore the shuttle began to lose altitude and “tumble.”

“The flight termination system was commanded on both the booster and the ship. As is standard procedure, the pad and surrounding area was cleared well in advance of the test,” the statement read.

And while the American media seemed quick to cheer the explosion, assuming Team Musk’s mission had failed, more prototypes are ready for launch and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials are delighted with the progress.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson praised the launch, congratulating SpaceX and writing on Twitter (opens in new tab) that “Every great achievement throughout history has demanded some level of calculated risk, because with great risk comes great reward. Looking forward to all that SpaceX learns, to the next flight test — and beyond.”

NASA Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development Jim Free likewise shared his enthusiasm on Twitter (opens in new tab), writing that Starship will help move the agency toward a crewed landing on the moon as part of the Artemis program.

“Looking forward to learning from the data SpaceX captured as they continue to develop the Starship human landing system and prepare for their next flight test,” Free wrote.

One downside was the debris that showered an area in Texas.

The SpaceX rocket launch explosion rained debris over a wide area, shaking homes and covering nearby Port Isabel with brown grime for miles.

Rob Nixon of San Benito, who watched the launch from Port Isabel, told Texas Public Radio the rocket’s impact was felt for miles.

“I wasn’t expecting to collect raining particulates today,” he said. “And my wife’s classroom in Los Fresnos vibrated 20 miles away.”

Port Isabel spokeswoman Valerie Bates told The New York Times that most of the city was covered with a thick, granular sand that landed on everything.

I am looking forward to seeing how the Starship program progresses. I am hoping for more reliable coverage of this important program for our press, but that outcome is much less likely than an even more successful launch by SpaceX.


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You learn more from failure than from success. – just about every engineer ever

Newsies have no idea about engineering.

Remember when Tesla finally put a cannon ball through a truck window after shooting at it all day? The media was full of all kinds of “Is this the end of Musk” speculation, and the engineers were laughing, saying “I wondered what it’d take to break that window.”

To an engineer, you haven’t tested it until you’ve broken it. They also needed to know whether the destruction sequence would indeed protect the population on the planet, below. It’s clear from the results that there was a lot of design work that went into the failsafe mechanisms.

2smartforlibs | April 22, 2023 at 2:22 pm

They didn’t even know if it would get off the pad and when it cleared the tower that was the data they were after anything else was gravy. They made it to stage one separation and that was the failure.

    MattMusson in reply to 2smartforlibs. | April 22, 2023 at 3:59 pm

    The next starship will use electric engine steering. Video seemed to show the hydraulic compressor on one side blowing out as the ship ascended. There will be hundreds of other improvements in the next test vehicle.

Musk has nothing to be embarrassed about.

I’m so old that I actually remember living through NASA’s Vanguard rocket program — three successful orbits out of eleven attempts — and the national humiliation when Sputnik made orbit first; followed by Yuri Gagarin, the first man both in space and in orbit.

Vanguard TV-3 got four feet off the pad before falling over sideways and exploding. I’ll take Musk’s “failures” anyday.

The debris reported in Texas was not from the detonation — the rocket was 10+ miles offshore and supersonic headed out to sea when it detonated. Nothing made it back to shore.

The debris was from the launch, from the ground under the launch.

    MattMusson in reply to Crawford. | April 22, 2023 at 4:02 pm

    It may be time to dig a blast trench under the launch tower. Although they say the water deluge system is going to be upgraded.

    The biggest hurdle prior to launch #2 may be repairing and upgrading the launch site.

      True. I vaguely remember seeing photos of the ‘under the launch tower’ area and the excavation that the rocket made on takeoff. All those rocks and dirt and concrete chunks flying around can’t be good for the engines, and that’s exactly what the water deluge system is supposed to stop.

    gonzotx in reply to Crawford. | April 22, 2023 at 7:04 pm

    Same thing, wouldn’t be there without the launch

    Just saying, we landed on the moon nearly 60 years ago

    Can’t we use those spec’s?

The failure is open to discovery and deduction. The question is if it operated within designed parameters.

    alaskabob in reply to n.n. | April 22, 2023 at 8:59 pm

    Since it cleared the tower and got up 25 miles… it’s a great start. Launch and MaxQ were successful. Amazing. 17 million pounds thrust. Estimated price to orbit… 57 cents/ounce. $1596 to put 175 pound man into orbit.

It pains me that Musk is ineligible to be President. He could do better than Biden without distracting from any of his other projects.

I was watching and I thought it was a major accomplishment. Then all the idiots started yapping about what a failure it was and I was once again reminded of the stupidity of the average person and the complete failure of the media to actually inform.

    alaskabob in reply to Sanddog. | April 22, 2023 at 9:04 pm

    They had used the toughest concrete made. Sometimes the immense power can’t be anticipated. The Saturn 5 pushed 39A inches into the ground…. and that was “just” 7.5 million pounds of thrust. In retrospect, the launch tower needs redesign and put the launch/catch tower on rails to move away. Still, a grand day.

    amwick in reply to Sanddog. | April 23, 2023 at 1:34 pm

    It was practically real time on twitter.. and Elon didn’t comment.. Maybe he was busy?

I could not get much past the first pic.. and the thought of a rocket lifting off at Boca Chica. It must be me.

Ty for the explanation.. I guess I thought it was a failure at first.