Starship Destroyed Atmospheric Re entry Earth Contact Lost No Splashdown SpaceX Confirms

Starship was destroyed while it was returning to Earth following a successful launch attempt on March 14, 2024. SpaceX lost contact with Starship, the world’s largest and most powerful launch system, during the final stages of its third flight test, The Guardian reported. Starship, which refers to the integrated Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket, successfully lifted off from Starbase in Texas, and completed most of its mission objectives. 

These included the successful burning of both the stages during ascent; opening and closing of the rocket’s payload door, known as the Pez bay door; propellant transfer demonstration during the coast phase, which was the period following the successful completion of Super Heavy’s Raptor engine burnout; and a re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. 

The Starship spacecraft is the second stage of the system, while Super Heavy is the upper stage and booster.

According to the Guardian report, Daniel Huot, a communications manager at SpaceX, said that the ship has been lost, and hence, no splashdown. 

One of the objectives of the flight test was to make Starship splash down in the Indian Ocean. But spacecraft recovery was not intended. The facts that contact with Starship has been lost, and there are no reports of a splashdown imply that the spacecraft either burnt up, or broke into multiple pieces. 

A mission objective that SpaceX skipped during the flight test was the re-ignition of one of the Raptor engines after it entered the coast phase.

ALSO READ | SpaceX Successfully Launches Third Flight Test Of Starship, World’s Most Powerful Launch System. WATCH

More about Starship, its previous launch attempts, and future role in Artemis programme

The Starship system has a height of 120 metres, a diameter of nine metres, and a payload capacity of 100 to 150 metric tonnes. 

Starship, the second stage of the system, is a fully reusable spacecraft, and has an integrated payload section.

Super Heavy, also fully reusable, is powered by 33 Raptor engines using sub-cooled liquid methane and liquid oxygen.

SpaceX launched Starship’s second integrated test flight on November 19, 2023. While the launch vehicle exploded within minutes after launch, it was not a complete failure, but a partial success. This is because Starship reached space by climbing to an altitude of about 150 kilometres, implying that the rocket went above the Karman line. The Karman line, from which space begins, has an altitude of 100 kilometres above sea level. 

Also, Starship successfully powered all 33 raptor engines on the Super Heavy Booster, and had a successful stage separation.

SpaceX launched Starship’s first orbital test flight on April 20, 2023, from Starbase. However, Starship exploded a few minutes after launch. 

Starship’s third test flight achieving most of its mission objectives indicates that SpaceX learnt from the mistakes made during previous launch attempts.

SpaceX has received the contract to design and build the Starship Human Lander System (HLS), atop which NASA’s Orion Spacecraft will be carried to the Moon from lunar orbit. This is a part of the Artemis III mission, the third leg of NASA’s Artemis Project. 

Artemis III aims to return humans to the Moon over 50 years after Apollo 17. The mission intends to land the first woman, and the first person of colour on the Moon.

ALSO READ | Starship’s Third Flight Test Successfully Lifts Off. Know Significance Of The SpaceX Mission

Leave a Comment