2018 rendering of Starship separating from its booster — WikiCC

Starship: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back?

Was the recent launch a failure or a success?

Will Lockett
Published in
7 min readNov 21, 2023

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Last Saturday, at 7 am, thousands of people gathered at Boca Chica and started expectantly into the early morning sky to witness history. The world’s largest-ever rocket, SpaceX’s Starship, was set to reattempt an orbital space flight after its previous catastrophic failure in April. Hopes were high that this time, this revolutionary vehicle could make it to the heavens and kickstart a new era of super-heavy space flight. But, just 8 minutes into the 90-minute mission, both stages of the rocket exploded, dashing any hopes of reaching orbit or proving that either stage could successfully land and be reused after a full-scale launch (which is the central design aspect of Starship). Despite these setbacks, SpaceX has claimed the launch was a success. So, was it?

Let’s start with what exactly happened on Saturday. The initial launch went far better than last time. Unlike the April attempt, which destroyed the launch pad and caused a vast amount of environmental and property damage, the launch pad stayed in one piece, and no damage was reported. That is a giant leap forward! Back in April, the first stage failed to separate, prompting the rocket to self-destruct to mitigate damage. This time, however, separation was successful, and the first stage (also known as the Super…

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Will Lockett
Predict

Independent journalist covering global politics, climate change and technology. Get articles early at www.planetearthandbeyond.co