SpaceX Starship & Super Heavy

So they’re adding a venting extension to the top of the first stage so the 2nd stage doesn’t “incinerate” it or “blow itself up” (Elon’s words). And they think they can probably be ready 6 weeks from now. That seems like a lot of redesigning in a 6-month turnaround. I do hope they can engineer it properly and this 2nd test launch is successful, but that seems very deadline-driven.

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Let’s be clear here- Musk is not an inventor, he’s an extremely hands-on investor. He didn’t invent the Tesla or any of SpaceX’s rockets. And why would he when he doesn’t have any sort of skill in that area? He does know some about software, although according to ex-Twitter engineers, a lot less than he should.


Serious progress is being made with the orbital launch mount repairs and upgrades. The hole dug by the first launch has been filled, foundation piles were drilled, massive amounts of rebar placed and concrete poured (including an all-day continuous pour, the grand total is something like 200 cement truckloads since repairs started — and counting!), and the “inverted shower head” water-cooled steel sandwich deluge plate was installed this week.


Still a lot to do — test Booster 9, for example, and mount the new second stage hot staging vent ring/hoop on its top — but SpaceX is working hard to get Starship operational ASAP.

Static fire of Booster 9 today! Four of the thirty-three engines shut down during the 2+ second test fire (obviously something that still needs improvement), but it looks like the upgraded pad held up well — here’s a shot from after the steam cleared.

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Hey, look Elon! The buildings are still standing this time!


Looks like they’re getting close to launch. These four people were spotted heading out to the launch platform.

Oops, wrong version.


Those are the explosives for the flight termination system. Not the sort of thing normally installed during ground testing, though they won’t be armed until just before flight.

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Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and aliens of all ages — 209 days after Starship Integrated Flight Test 1, Integrated Flight Test 2 is poised for flight. The launch license has been granted.

The second flight test of a fully integrated Starship is set to launch Friday, November 17. A two-hour launch window opens at 7:00 a.m. CT.

A live webcast of the flight test will begin about 35 minutes before liftoff, which you can watch here and on X @SpaceX. As is the case with all developmental testing, the schedule is dynamic and likely to change, so be sure to stay tuned to our X account for updates.

Starship’s first flight test provided numerous lessons learned that directly contributed to several upgrades to both the vehicle and ground infrastructure to improve the probability of success on future flights. The second flight test will debut a hot-stage separation system and a new electronic Thrust Vector Control (TVC) system for Super Heavy Raptor engines, in addition to reinforcements to the pad foundation and a water-cooled steel flame deflector, among many other enhancements.

This rapid iterative development approach has been the basis for all of SpaceX’s major innovative advancements, including Falcon, Dragon, and Starlink. Recursive improvement is essential as we work to build a fully reusable transportation system capable of carrying both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, help humanity return to the Moon, and ultimately travel to Mars and beyond.


The launch attempt has been pushed back 24 hours to Saturday, November 18, at 7:00am CT.

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Well, that was considerably more successful than the first flight!

The good:

  • Early reports from the ground are that the launch pad held up well thanks to all the concrete reinforcement, the steel “showerhead,” and water deluge added since the first test flight
  • All thirty-three Super Heavy engines ran without incident right up until staging, officially making Starship the biggest and most powerful rocket to ever make it into space — though not orbit (yet)
  • Starship successfully hot-staged from Super Heavy and continued climbing towards the target near-orbit
  • Super Heavy was able to reorient itself for boost back and restart most of the engines needed for that phase

The bad:

  • Some thermal protection tiles visibly detached from Starship during the early period of ascent
  • Some of the Super Heavy engines didn’t relight for boost back, and more failed a bit later
  • Super Heavy had a RUD during boost back, but it looked like the event initiated in the engine area and not the hot staging dome
  • Starship had a RUD at the very end of its near-orbital insertion burn, so no reentry test

The ugly:

  • Not knowing when the next test flight will take place

Scott Manley, as usual, has an excellent summary and hypothesizes what went wrong with each stage.


I meant to watch this, and then they changed the launch time and I forgot.

Thanks for the summary.

Gee, so when you actually wait until the launch pad is FINISHED it doesn’t get destroyed. Whodathunk?


Despite the final failures of both stages this flight, this really is remarkable progress in just six and a half months since the first flight. I doubt it will be another six months before it flies again unless regulatory approval gets in the way.

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True. Their first test they had I think 6 engines never ignite, and staging … well let’s not bring up what happened at staging. So this was improvement.


Here are a few screengrabs from a flyover of the launch site just a couple of hours after liftoff. Things are obviously a bit singed, as one would expect, but clearly intact.


Based on informed comments from the peanut gallery, I’d guess that reorienting Super Heavy for boost back and relighting the center engines will be a bit slower on the next flight. Consensus is that propellant slosh and/or fluid hammering was responsible for the RUD, though only SpaceX knows for sure right now.

And part of a statement from SpaceX in the Washington Post :

“…the flight test’s conclusion came when telemetry was lost near the end of second stage burn before engine cutoff after more than eight minutes of flight. The team verified a safe command destruct was appropriately triggered based on available vehicle performance data.”

Strongly implies that SpaceX was getting good telemetry from the second stage right up until the end, so it should be able to ascertain the cause of its RUD with a fair degree of confidence.

[Edit 2023-11-26] According to Scott Manley’s latest video, the thrust on the the booster from the exhaust of the second stage engines during hot-staging was enough to send the acceleration of the first stage negative. This would have had the effect of literally pushing the first stage backwards despite three of the engines still running while the liquid propellant inside continued moving forwards towards the top of the tanks. So propellant slosh would definitely have been an issue in restarting the first stage engines and keeping them running for boostback. There will definitely need to be some modifications to the hot-staging procedure that could be as simple as changing the timing of events and engine thrust levels to extending the interstage vent ring to increase the standoff distance of the second stage.

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