back to article SpaceX celebrates Starship launch as a success – even with the explosion

SpaceX judged the second launch of its Starship a success after the craft's two launch stages separated and one made it into space, but neither finished their mission. The Super Heavy first stage booster experienced what SpaceX described as a "rapid unscheduled disassembly" over the Gulf of Mexico at around eight minutes into …

  1. msknight

    I can't help but feel....

    ...that investors will only put up with so much "progressive failure" from these blown-up launches before insurers stop carrying the risks and Musk's space ride ends up grounded.

    1. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

      Re: I can't help but feel....

      These launches aren't insured in that SpaceX isn't reimbursed for the loss of their hardware. They're paying it out of their own pocket.

      They probably do have some calamity insurance, but that's minimal.

      1. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

        Re: I can't help but feel....

        Yeah there's no point in having insurance if you can cover the costs of a loss out of pocket. It's important to remember that insurance is negative expected cash value. Otherwise, no insurance company would offer it. It's only positive expected value if losses have a risk of bankrupting you.

        1. msknight

          Re: I can't help but feel....

          His rockets aren't, but the payloads he carries for his customers are.

          If it's deemed to risky (I know... rockets are always risky) then his customers won't get insurance for their payloads, or it will cost them too many arms and legs on top of what it usually costs, and they won't fly with him.

          It's not just a case of how deep Musk's paper pockets are.

          1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            So far Starship carries no payloads, this is way too early, so there's nothing to insure.

            Once SpaceX have had a few successful tests, we'll start seeing candidates happy to risk their payload for a reduced fee, though probably still uninsured. Then when the reliablity improves, commercial missions will become a reality and insurers will be happy to take on the payloads as the risk has gone down.

          2. Gordon 10
            Facepalm

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            Your first comment was a bust - but keep digging.

            Not a Musk fan but SpaceX payloads have some of the lowest insurance costs around because it's the most reliable launch platform in existence.

            Its exactly how deep SpaceX's pockets are. SpaceX expect and have planned for the first few launches to be underwritten by themselves, and will be offering hugely discounted payload fees.

            Why do you think he launched the Roadster on Falcon Heavy?

            Duh.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: I can't help but feel....

              :"Why do you think he launched the Roadster on Falcon Heavy?"

              To give a giant FU to Martin Eberhard who should have received that particular Roadster. It would have been much more proper to fly somebody's experiment (such as a university) for free rather than just do a big stunt. That would have been a massive opportunity since flights outbound like that are very expensive.

          3. cmdrklarg

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            The first "customer" that Starship will have is SpaceX itself for launching Starlink satellites.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: I can't help but feel....

              "The first "customer" that Starship will have is SpaceX itself for launching Starlink satellites."

              That's going to take a large amount of engineering. Normally when satellites are launched, the second stage that they're attached to is just discarded with the protective fairing being ejected once out of the atmosphere. With Starship, there's the need to open up the top in a mechanically sound way (a single hinge point on a round tube isn't going to cut it) and close the door securely so the craft can re-enter the atmosphere and land in one piece. It's not simple. A single latch that fails to re-engage can cause the craft to break up on re-entry. All of the mechanics to open/close and dispense the satellites needs to be designed and tested.

              In the mean time, NASA is seeing the Starship lunar lander as pushing the moon missions years further into the future.

              1. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

                Re: I can't help but feel....

                On the other hand, the satellites themselves are pretty flat, so they can "just" dump them out of a horizontal slit (Google "Starlink Pez dispenser"). Not to downplay the complexity of course.

                1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                  Re: I can't help but feel....

                  "On the other hand, the satellites themselves are pretty flat, so they can "just" dump them out of a horizontal slit (Google "Starlink Pez dispenser"). Not to downplay the complexity of course."

                  The sats would need to be stacked in a way that would allow that and then there's the "For every action there is......" that must be compensated for. Right now the stack of satellites are just given a push all at once with the retaining clamps, bolts and other parts just left to do their own thing. The Pez dispenser approach would need a mechanism to make it work which might jam and also has mass.

              2. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: I can't help but feel....

                "With Starship, there's the need to open up the top in a mechanically sound way (a single hinge point on a round tube isn't going to cut it)"

                Well for their first payloads there will be a slot door and what is effectively a pallet loader will spit the birds out individually, or in pairs.

                There have been previous spacecraft with a recloseable fairing (the shuttle is just one) although they are all much smaller (but then that's hardly a surprise, starship/superheavy is the largest and most powerful rocket to fly

    2. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

      Re: I can't help but feel....

      Because being billions over budget and years late to deliver is a better business model...?

      1. jmch Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: I can't help but feel....

        "being billions over budget and years late to deliver is a better business model...?"

        It is if your lobbyists can bribe 'persuade' enough congressmen to keep the billions flowing.

        1. Groo The Wanderer

          Re: I can't help but feel....

          Money that should rightfully be going to NASA...

          1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            Why?

          2. StudeJeff

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            Why?

            Because of NASA's high standards for government bureaucracy, inefficiency and waste?

            SpaceX has accomplished more in spaceflight in the past five years than NASA has in the past 30.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            "Money that should rightfully be going to NASA..."

            NASA doesn't build launch vehicles. They hire what they need when they need it. I would love to see NASA be allocated more money and the military far less. The ROI is much greater that way.

            I was thinking the other day about how the US government has been keen on taking taxpayer money and giving it to large companies to develop technology those companies will patent and hold tight. If the goal is foster certain technologies, perhaps a better plan is to have the national laboratories and agencies such as NASA get the money to develop the technology where it can be made available to all. NASA held the patent for solar roof tiles (expired). Being a public agency, something like that means cost effective and non-biased licensing can be mandated if it isn't already. I expect at the most there could be a requirement that the licensee is a US entity or a foreign entity might have to pay a premium.

      2. Philo T Farnsworth

        Re: I can't help but feel....

        I am tempted to compare the media's fawning and cheer leading (check the BBC's coverage of the launch) over this latest event with the general grousing, complaining, and general lack of media love over NASA's own Artemis program which, carefully testing and retesting, methodically plods along, having already flown around the Moon.

        Delays, yes, but the boxes get ticked and the milestones accomplished.

        Disclosure, I worked at NASA Ames Research Center as a contractor for a far too short period of time in the late 1980s and look back on that as a wonderful experience. I also did a small consultation in conjunction with a NASA JPL group in the mid 1990s, so I am perhaps biased.

        I might also mention that I'm somewhat skeptical of the drive for human spaceflight in general, given that robots and landers have done such a bang up job of bringing back the science without having to deal all the accoutrements necessary to sustain a human rider.

        But, as someone will no doubt point out, that's just me.

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Look at SLS costs

          SpaceX launches are so cheap that ULA and Ariane are mostly out of the market. ULA has second/independent provider status for DoD and Starliner. Ariane had EU independent launch. ULA+Ariane have Kuiper because Bezos does not want to fund a competitor - no matter what the cost or delay. SLS has no commercial customers at all - partly because of the ½ a launch per year cadence and partly for the ~$2B cost. I really do mean approximate cost. I have not seen a commercial price advertised. OIG currently think an SLS/Orion launch is $4.5B but they are not sure they have tracked down all the costs. Think about that - NASA finds SLS costs so shameful that they make an effort to hide them.

          Falcon 9: $67M. Falcon heavy: $97M-$150M. Starship: same price as a Falcon big enough for the job.

          When you could buy them: Ariane 5 $150M-$200M (2x Falcon 9 launches). Atlas V: $110M-$153M. Delta IV: $350M-$440M (Falcon Heavy).

          If you can wait: Vulcan $100M-200M. Ariane 6: $75M-$115M (one or two Falcon 9s depending on how much you pay)

          Falcon paid off US government funding with taxes from foreign launch contracts. It has also provided a cheap alternative to ULA with the lowest insurance rates in the market while providing downward pressure on ULA pricing. Without Dragon, the US would have to choose between Soyuz, Shenzou and SLS/Orion for rides to the ISS.

          SLS costs do not include R&D ($18B) or ground support equipment ($2B). As it is a one trick pony, include $6B for Orion R&D. Going forward, a new mobile launch platform will be required. Going backward, SLS is built off Constellation and Space Shuttle R&D not included is the costs I mentioned. Compare that to $4B fixed cost on achieving milestones for R&D, two Lunar Starships and as many RUDs as required from SpaceX.

          Can you begin to see why cost plus SLS attracts negative opinions?

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Look at SLS costs

            "SLS has no commercial customers at all"

            The Senate Launch System isn't a commercial carrier. Cynically, it's more of a jobs program for US congresspersons to point at to show how they've brought high tech jobs to their districts. NASA did not want the program and saw it as a major drain on their already limited budget and a poor way to develop a heavy lifter. I see the potential benefit of developing a station on/in the moon, but for politicians, it's all about D-Waving and bragging rights.

            1. anothercynic Silver badge

              Re: Look at SLS costs

              Otherwise known as 'government pork'.

            2. Excused Boots

              Re: Look at SLS costs

              For a moment I read that phrase as ‘Senate Lunch System’

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                I'd be happy pay the costs for the Senate Launch System

                but not the Senate Lunch System(though I do, technically)

                However, The Senate will have to pay for the Senate LANDING system themselves. They will have a harder time meeting with lobbyists in LEO.

                I hope they don't forget their wallets like they to at the Senate Cafe... orbital door dash might be a little pricey.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Which part of NASA?

              As there have been plenty cheerleading for SLS even in the face of it's painful obsolescence. Like other NASA megaprojects, you hear people from other projects quietly griping when they think they are out of managements earshot, but once one of these corporate welfare projects gets going, good luck shutting them down.

              The scientists are only in control of parts of NASA. The rest is a life support system for the flow of money from the government to the dinosaurs of the old aerospace industry. The ones that year after year can't deliver a plane or rocket helicopter that meets it's primary performance criteria, let alone it's launch dates or cost targets.

              That part of the industry needs to be rooted out of NASA and congress, and we need to apply the lessons we learned from government's successes SpaceX, and it's problems. Newer, smaller, and more innovative companies are not higher risk, they are lower risk. You just need to make sure there isn't a temperamental Willy Wonka CEO at the helm.

              Instead we just treat it as inevitable that either the big incumbents get all the contracts, or they will buy up any smaller players that get traction.

        2. Grunchy Silver badge

          Re: I can't help but feel....

          “I might also mention that I'm somewhat skeptical of the drive for human spaceflight in general”

          Yeah. Agree. Virtually the entire Universe is completely hostile to human life. There’s nowhere to go, and once you get there, there’s nothing to do.

          I predict when Musk sends people to Mars they have a thoroughly awful time interrupted only when they die in thoroughly appalling circumstances. Luckily, they will be too far away to actually take any revenge against Musk.

          (Much like Russian armed forces fighting in Ukraine, and will never be able to do anything against Putin.)

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            "Yeah. Agree. Virtually the entire Universe is completely hostile to human life. There’s nowhere to go, and once you get there, there’s nothing to do."

            There's a lot of possibilities on the moon and could be even more once scientists can gather data. Charles Walker developed and ran a protein electrophoresis experiment on the Shuttle that lead to an understanding of how to do it on Earth. Being able to separate out the effects of gravity was key. I had a nice chat with him a bunch of years ago for a magazine article I wrote. Somewhere I have the recording. The hope is that there will be ways to create highly advanced semi-conductors on the moon by being able to grow crystals in lunar gravity.

            Mars is fascinating, but very deadly with no good ROI over what the increasingly more capable rovers are able to find out. I'm of the opinion that humans are stuck on Earth and we need to concentrate on keeping the environment healthy enough that we don't contribute to our own extinction. Jupiter's moons aren't human rated and if anything lives on Titan, it will be very strange to us and likely lives very slowly. Perhaps Venus, but we'd have to live in the clouds at very specific altitudes with a whole bunch of terraforming beforehand. Doesn't seem likely, but terraforming Venus could be slightly easier than Mars.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: I can't help but feel....

        "Because being billions over budget and years late to deliver is a better business model...?"

        The very odd thing is that the contract SpaceX has for the Starship lunar lander is fixed price. Going over-budget means it comes out of investor's pockets and if they don't deliver, a couple of large gentleman in over-tailored suits will pay them a visit and ask some pointed questions about where their money is.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: I can't help but feel....

      Elon Musk owns 42% of SpaceX and holds 79% of the voting rights. So for better or worse, SpaceX does what he tells it to. The only recourse any other investors have is to sell.

      1. msknight

        Re: I can't help but feel....

        Musk's wealth is mostly paper. If confidence is lost, then that will take a dent. With it, will go the funds for his various enterprises.

        He is lighting an awful lot of money on fire. A chunk of it is other people's money. At some point, people will stop giving him money to use a cigar lighter fodder.

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: I can't help but feel....

          msknight,

          Starship and Falcon are separate products. Starship is still an explosion-prone prototype with a silly name. Falcon 9 is now the most poptular booster used to put payloads in space. It's both reliable, and cheap, and so easy to get insurance for. Falcon Heavy isn't as popular, so I'm not sure it's got enough launches to have a safety record yet, even though I don't think it's blown up any payloads at all.

          If Falcon 9s start randomly blowing up - then you'll hear about it. And confidence might take a knock.

          But people ought to be able to tell the difference between the two kinds of rockets.

          Whether SpaceX's method of iteratively (and explosively) testing is better than trying to calculate everything and never go kaboom is correct or not, I don't know. I presume they feel that it's better to fully know the limits, than to be forced to over-engineer, and thus carry extra weight and smaller payload. I think their gleeful celebration of the explosions annoys some people, but it may also act as good PR, in that getting people to expect prototypes to explode might then lead to higher confidence in the finished products when they cease exploding. You're effectively saying, "I meant that!" And thus hopefully avoiding the bad publicity that every company undergoes when their prototype explodes in some test. I don't believe there's a single rocket in service that hasn't lost at least one test launch or actual launch.

          1. LogicGate Silver badge

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            In cutting edge engineering, you will often find that "trying to calculate everything and never go kaboom" is only possible if your design variables remain within parameters researched before (often with a big kaboom), or just so far outside of these previously reseached parameters that extrapolation will give you acceptable results.

            Once you start doing things well beyond anything ever done before, no amount of deliberate calculation can save you, because you will find yourself knee deep in the UGHknown.

            Actual hardware testing is an invaluable tool for learning.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            "Falcon 9 is now the most poptular booster "

            If you discount the Starlink launches, the lead narrows considerably.

          3. anothercynic Silver badge

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            Iterative testing led to Falcon 9. It's what got SpaceX off the ground in the first place. That's what SpaceX did differently to other organisations... Musk was willing to fail often (provided the money was there - of which he stumped up a shedload to pay for three launches).

            Shotwell had the connections at the USAF (she was the one who got Musk access to Vandenberg, and by extension, to Kwajalein). And she was able to persuade USAF brass that Musk was not a playboy with big toys going boom, but rather someone who was very serious about getting a rocket business started (hence them letting him have a little corner in Vandenberg, and then later the launch pad in the Marshalls).

            The fact that SpaceX is doing well and is hauling in money (and has enough spare to have a couple of iterative 'boom' moments with Starship) shows that there's a *LOT* that Musk and his space engineers did right, as much as he deserves to get all the flak he does for messing up Twitter (and maybe Tesla).

            There's a lot some of the NASA contractors could learn from SpaceX.

          4. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: I can't help but feel....

            "It's both reliable, and cheap"

            Yes, it's been reliable for some time now. The cheap part is artificial. The company has to raise hundreds of millions of dollars every year to support the development of things like Starlink and Starship. There isn't the profits from ongoing operations to pay for more R&D beyond what's needed to keep F9 going. Other launch providers charge more so they have internal funds available rather than needing to attract investors or sell more stock. Part of the money Airbus and Boeing charge for an aircraft is earmarked for the R&D fund to work on the next generation of aircraft. Another company could come along with a really good aircraft that airlines could buy for less, but they'd be a one hit wonder and would have to beg for money to design their next product and the next one and be at the mercy of investors.

    5. cray74

      Re: I can't help but feel....

      ...that investors will only put up with so much

      One of those investors is the US government, which has contributed about $4.04 billion to SpaceX for Starship development via the HLS contracts. NASA has a different tolerance for risk and failure than profit-seeking investors.

      SpaceX's history is an interesting study in the US government's tolerance for risk. The first three Falcon 1 flights had the following customers:

      Flight 1: US government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)

      Flight 2: DARPA

      Flight 3: NASA, ORS (a US government multi-agency effort), and the commercial entity Celestis

      While those three Falcon 1's were exploding over Omelek Island, NASA was funding SpaceX with hundreds of millions of dollars to get the Falcon 9 airborne. As SpaceX's President Shotwell noted, NASA's funding was vital to getting the Falcon 9 off the ground.

      Now, 17 years after Falcon 1 first flight blew up and after 17 years of listening to SpaceX brag about its "learning by exploding" process, NASA is throwing billions at SpaceX for a working, lunar landing version of the Starship. Because Congress is feeling generous about space funding, NASA is addressing its assigned task of "get to the moon" with a risk reduction approach for its mission rather than profits: it is funding SLS, Starship, and Blue Origin. If one fails then NASA has alternatives in the development pipeline. Further, NASA knows that SpaceX is going to take a more explode-y approach to spacecraft development than other private competitors like Boeing and Blue Origin.

      NASA, metaphorically like SpaceX, is having a blast.

      before insurers stop carrying the risks

      The insurance carried for the Starship test flights is liability insurance in case rocket confetti lands on someone or their belongings:

      "...part of the FAA licensing process is a calculation of the “maximum probable loss” from third party liability—that is, liability for harm to anyone other than the launch provider and the owners of payloads carried by the launch. The launch provider is then required, by the terms of its license, to carry insurance for the maximum probable loss amount, up to a cap of $500 million."

      Since the insurance isn't for the rocket, which is expected to explode, and because no one's been killed by Starship yet, the insurers haven't gotten annoyed with SpaceX.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: I can't help but feel....

        "Since the insurance isn't for the rocket, which is expected to explode, and because no one's been killed by Starship yet, the insurers haven't gotten annoyed with SpaceX."

        Nobody had been insuring the launch vehicle since it was more economic to just dispose of them when the job was done. It takes in the neighborhood of 10 launches to start seeing a return on reused rocket and the launch market hasn't been so busy that 10 launches on one airframe would happen in a time frame short enough. Rockets are constantly being updated, so having one that will last several years isn't a benefit.

        With reused rockets, there isn't the data to asses the risk on the likelihood of the airframe failing as it's used more. Rockets vibrate like mad and there's also the mechanical stresses along with thermal cycling in places. I haven't seen if SpaceX has published any data on the retirement of airframes/engines. The other data points will be easy to spot if recycled rockets start failing.

        I would expect insurers to charge a premium for Starship given Elon's constantly stated views on blowing things up a lot and the inability to complete missions as planned. If the rockets aren't exploding and behave as expected, the insurers can have more confidence that they'll be able to keep all of the premiums and hand out nice bonuses to everybody senior enough to have their own luxury office on the executive floor.

    6. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: I can't help but feel....

      Sounds awfully similar to the naysaying that went on when they were first figuring out how to land rockets.

      Or all the naysaying when JWST was still being built, costing $10B and years behind schedule. All that is forgotten now with the incredible science that it's doing.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: I can't help but feel....

        "Sounds awfully similar to the naysaying that went on when they were first figuring out how to land rockets."

        NASA was landing rockets on the moon in the 1960's. It hasn't been a major technical challenge, it's mainly been financial. I was working at a company some years back where we were frequently landing rockets before SpaceX started their Grasshopper program. I think we 6 cycles in one day. Not going to orbit, but the F9 booster isn't going to orbit either. Once you've lifted off, there's not much more to it whether you are going up 100m or much higher.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Technical challenges abound

          Both now and then. The SLS is a great example at failing at something we succeeded at decades ago, but we will be doing the same thing successfully soon, and with reusable launch vehicles. It's looking like the problems with running massive numbers of engines is solvable with modern control systems, and the math on the belly flop landing seems to be sound.

          The LEM wasn't reusable, and landing under full gravity and lunar gravity aren't really comparable. I'd say that based on the amount of time it took for the handful existing players that can tail land a useful launch device it seems harder than it looks. Hard enough that trying to catch them in midair was attempted at least semi-seriously.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Technical challenges abound

            "The SLS is a great example at failing at something we succeeded at decades ago"

            SLS isn't a rocket program, it's a jobs program for senior politicians to bring to their state so they can point at those high paying jobs when it's time to be re-elected yet again. Apollo was cold war D-waving. The President decided that only the one with the largest male reproductive organ would be able to put men on the moon first. There were some caveats such as everybody coming back alive to cement the achievement.

            The LEM wasn't reusable since it would have to be too massive (kgs) and they were out of margin. One of the astronauts commented that it would be easy to push a screw driver through the skin. I wonder if the disposable approach is still the best way to accomplish the mission today. If the spent lander can be crashed in a specified spot, it would be a source of refined metal that could be used to make things on the moon. It skips over the need to process ore and reduce it to pure metals that then need to be alloyed for the desired properties.

  2. StrangerHereMyself Silver badge

    Self destruct

    From what I gather both Super Heavy and Starship were destroyed by their respective Automated Self Destruct (ASD) systems, most likely because they strayed out of their pre-programmed boundaries.

    Most likely Musk will take want the ASD to be programmed more leniently to increase the chances of success. I believe if the ASD had been throttled down somewhat the entire flight might have had a successful outcome. Now SpaceX will have to do it all over again. Each flight costs them about $100 million or more and they need dozens of flights to let NASA entrust them with ferrying their astronauts to the Moon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Self destruct

      Have we had any confirmation of the self destruct? I've read lots of conjecture, but nothing official or even in the news. If it truly did self destruct at 150km altitude, I'd think that the space junk it left behind would be a pretty big issue...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Self destruct

        It is not even close to orbital velocity, so it's all come back down in a hurry

      2. Phil E Succour

        Re: Self destruct

        I’ve not seen any confirmation of what happened, but my understanding from reports I’ve read is that it hadn’t (and wasn’t intended to) reach orbital speed, so unless the detonation accelerated some debris to orbital speed the resulting detritus will have found its way back to the surface somewhere.

        1. UCAP Silver badge

          Re: Self destruct

          Its probably ended up in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Must countries would start to get ironic, if not outright sarcastic, if SpaceX dropped its rubbish on their territory.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Self destruct

            NASA has firm

            1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Self destruct

              And did, eventually, pay the littering fine :-)

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "ironic, if not outright sarcastic..."

            Irate and bombastic seems more likely.

          3. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Self destruct

            "Must countries would start to get ironic"

            Sgt Colon, is that you?

      3. Vulch

        Re: Self destruct

        There are images from weather radar in the region showing the second stage debris coming down in a line north of Puerto Rico and Anguilla.

      4. DevOpsTimothyC

        Re: Self destruct

        There's atleast one video supposedly from Puerto Rico showing parts of Starship burning up.

        The whole flight was suppose to be sub-orbital starting at Texas, over the Caribbean, down the north coast of South America, over the South Atlantic, over the north of South America. I cannot remember exactly where from there, or where it was suppose to re-enter the atmosphere, but it was supposed to end up just north of Hawaii. Possibly with belly flop and propulsive landing (above the sea) before dropping in.

      5. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Self destruct

        " I'd think that the space junk it left behind would be a pretty big issue..."

        US weather satellites picked up the debris clouds. Booster is feeding the fish over a wide swath of the Gulf of Mexico and Starship a longer and skinnier path past Puerto Rico.

    2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

      Re: Self destruct

      The "leniency" in the programming of the Flight Termination System (FTS) is dictated by the launch licence, and while Elon Musk doesn't respect many things, he does respect those.

    3. 42656e4d203239 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: Self destruct

      >>to increase the chances of success.

      What is it with commentards and explosion=fail? SpaceX iterate in the real world, chosing to spend their money on publicity friendly RUDs rather than iterating on paper and expecting a flawless lauch first time. Remind me again which company is launching a couple of largely resuable rockets a week, and tell me how many Starliners have left the launch pad... and who is in bigger dire straits.

      This latest iteration was a success - it proved that many of the things that have changed since the last launch worked. It demonstrated where the shortfalls are and what needs tweaking and, believe it or not, his Muskiness actually does have some rocket scientists who analyze the data and make changes to the production line as new information arrives... changes that mean some equipment will never fly, despite being built, becasue of known shortfalls in real life performance.

      >>Now SpaceX will have to do it all over again.

      Well duh! Musk has stated many times that SpaceX iterate in the real world, not in models. It is the way he set the whole operation up. It worked for Falcon, it will probably work for Starship.

      >> Each flight costs them about $100 million or more and they need dozens of flights to let NASA entrust them with ferrying their astronauts to the Moon

      Cost is, for given values, irrelevent and $100 million is peanuts for space - what is the difference, in cost, between making prototypes and testing them in the real world, and not making prototypes and failing to launch?

      As for the many flights required - indeed. But that is (yet again) expected and part of the Musky business plan.

      Just in case anyone gets the wrong idea and thinks that I orbit the man's fundament, that is not the case - he is a detestable human being who happens to have persuaded a lot of people that he is the man to get to space reliably and cheaply (cf. Senate Launch System/Boeing/SLS). His approach to the business of actually getting there is refeshingly different to ULA/SLS/BO and is proven to work (Falcon 9 launches now happen every couple of days and no-one bats an eyelid because they "never" go wrong... and the Falcon program nearly broke Space X)

      Icon becasue everyone loves a RUD

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        Re: Self destruct

        Maybe one of the reasons he bought Twitter was so he could be in complete control of something that would keep him in the spotlight. With SpaceX he is pretty constrained in terms of engineering, process, regulation and the-real-world, whereas Twitter is his to fuck up as he wants.

        1. John H Woods Silver badge

          Re: Self destruct

          If you take SpaceX, Tesla and X/Twitter as three data points, it seems to indicate that the degree of success may be inversely proportional to his degree of hands on. Maybe entrepeneurship and management aren't always the same skillset.

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Self destruct

          "Maybe one of the reasons he bought Twitter was so he could be in complete control of something that would keep him in the spotlight. "

          It's long been known that looking good in the media is oft easier when you own said media. Look today at every oppressive regime in the world and see who owns/controls the media. Also see what happens to those who publish "news" that isn't approved.

      2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

        Re: Self destruct

        SpaceX iterate in the real world, chosing to spend their money on publicity friendly RUDs ...

        And dumping hundreds of tons of rubbish in the sea, where even throwing an empty baked bean tin off a yacht is illegal.

        1. LogicGate Silver badge

          Re: Self destruct

          Most of which ios stainless steel.

          Compared to the daily utput of plastic in all forms that we dump into our oceans, an artificial reef made out of stainless steel is not so bad.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Self destruct

          Yes, you are absolutely right. We should ban SpaceX and their fully and nearly-fully reusable rockets and only allow those companies that dispose of the entire rocket into the sea every single time.

        3. DevOpsTimothyC

          Re: Self destruct

          Having done a bunch of scuba diving the large lumps of metal are MUCH better for marine life than any amount of plastic.

          Most wrecks are akin to oases in deserts.

        4. Spherical Cow

          Re: Self destruct

          "And dumping hundreds of tons of rubbish in the sea, where even throwing an empty baked bean tin off a yacht is illegal."

          No, it is not illegal. You just have to be at least 12 miles offshore, then you can legally litter as much as you like.

      3. John H Woods Silver badge

        Re: Self destruct

        Absolutely. He's doing what NASA would never be allowed to do, rapidly progressing launch technology through testing prototypes. It's only politics that means this has to be down by a private company, the actual individuals doing the work would be the same talented Tefal-heads whoever employs them.

        1. ravenviz Silver badge

          Re: Self destruct

          "doing what NASA would never be allowed to do"

          Both SpaceX and NASA are bound to FAA approval and both operate under the same operational restrictions.

          1. awavey

            Re: Self destruct

            they mean in terms of flight testing like this where RUDs not only happen,but are often part of the expected mission profile.

            NASA politically could never launch SLS with an expectation of it disintegrating at some stage in flight, they are a government agency funded with public money, and the public rightly expect their money not to be used on a gigantic firework, so NASA can only launch their vehicles when they have 100% confidence it will do everything right first time in public view. That massively extends the development process because it takes longer to identify where those problems are in the systems, and that is why SLS is so heavily delayed.

            SpaceX operate under the same FAA restrictions, but are happy to develop their systems in public, and RUDs are just part of their development process, they learn from it, fix it, retry till they get it right.

            Falcon 9 launched again today, landed the booster again today, doesnt even prompt comment any more.

            1. cray74

              Re: Self destruct

              NASA politically could never launch SLS with an expectation of it disintegrating at some stage in flight

              NASA hired SpaceX to develop the Starship with the understanding that SpaceX would wreck several Starships in the process. NASA could very well have hired Boeing to build the SLS with expectation that it'd blow up or otherwise fail in its test flights, but the private company Boeing (and its many subcontractors) have a different engineering approach than SpaceX.

              SpaceX operate under the same FAA restrictions, but are happy to develop their systems in public, and RUDs are just part of their development process, they learn from it, fix it, retry till they get it right.

              RUDs that wouldn't be happening without NASA's $4 billion in Human Landing System contracts to SpaceX.

              1. usbac

                Re: Self destruct

                There is a big difference however with SLS. Boeing has a blank check drawing on taxpayer's money. SpaceX does not.

                With SLS going many billions over budget, and the money keeps flowing with no controls, if the public saw rockets blowing up routinely, there would be a lot of backlash. The fact that there isn't backlash at the cost overruns as they are, just shows the value of lobbying...

              2. Malcolm Weir

                Re: Self destruct

                Boeing isn't a private company; it's a publicly-traded company (ticket "BA"). They are answerable to their shareholders, the largest of which are investment companies!

                SpaceX is a private company. Also answerable to shareholders, but 70%-odd of them are called "Elon". Makes getting board approval to engage in high-risk ventures much easier: if Elon says "do it", it gets done.

                And I think that's your point: the smaller the number of shareholders, the easier (defining the US government as being an entity with 300 million-odd shareholders)!

                1. cray74

                  Re: Self destruct

                  Boeing isn't a private company; it's a publicly-traded company (ticket "BA").

                  I meant that Boeing isn't a public sector entity like the US government. Boeing is a private sector, for-profit corporation like SpaceX and, yes, Boeing is a public corporation while SpaceX is private. However, news articles aren't gushing about SpaceX being a non-publicly traded corporation achieving spaceflight, they're gushing about it being a private sector entity achieving spaceflight.

                  I found the point weird since because Western space-capable rockets have been built by the private sector since Mittelwerk GmbH's MW 18014 reached space in 20 June 1944. SpaceX is doing much the same as every aerospace company before it: it's a private entity taking lots of government money to go to space.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Self destruct

              "and RUDs are just part of their development process, they learn from it, fix it, retry till they get it right."

              How do they verify that hot staging isn't causing problems they hadn't anticipated? The video they show is cheesy as hell and the airframe is in tiny little pieces at the bottom of a sea.

          2. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Self destruct

            ""doing what NASA would never be allowed to do""

            NASA and its contractors do destructive testing all of the time. They advertise it as destructive testing when they do rather than a multi-item launch mission. It's much more informative and cheaper to blow things up under controlled conditions to verify the models.

        2. cray74

          Re: Self destruct

          He's doing what NASA would never be allowed to do, rapidly progressing launch technology through testing prototypes

          The Starship is being developed on $4.04 billion in NASA funding so, in fact, NASA is rapidly progressing launch technology through testing prototypes.

          More generally, NASA rarely builds rockets. Ever since Alan Shepard popped above the atmosphere on a Chrysler-built Redstone rocket in a McDonnell-built Mercury capsule, NASA has relied on private contractors for construction and operation. NASA didn't build the Saturn V. NASA didn't build the shuttle. NASA didn't build the Atlas V. NASA didn't build the Falcon 9. But it definitely funded them to varying degrees, and then hired their launch services for publicly-funded missions.

          Further, it's a mistake to think that a contractor like SpaceX (or Boeing, or Lockheed-Martin, or ArianeSpace) is a rival to NASA when they're doing different things. NASA doesn't build and launch rockets. Instead, NASA runs space exploration and aerospace development programs assigned to it by Congress. SpaceX doesn't have a space exploration program, planetary research centers, or researchers seeking to explore space. Instead, SpaceX is an aerospace company that builds rockets and uses them to launch payloads from paying customers like NASA.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: Self destruct

            "NASA runs space exploration and aerospace development programs assigned to it by Congress"

            SLS was handed to NASA, but it's NASA that leads the choice of missions to work on rather than Congress for just about everything else. That can be swayed by what's in fashion. If climate change is making the headlines, NASA has to sell missions that can be connected with that to get a budget approved and hopefully increased.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Self destruct

          "He's doing what NASA would never be allowed to do"

          NASA doesn't want to lose face by repeatedly failing to complete a mission. Starship was supposed to complete a list of things and instead has failed time after time. Only one Starship (SN15) hasn't exploded and no Booster has NOT blown up. If you don't do what you said your plans were supposed to accomplish, you have failed. NASA also has to keep a bunch of the least technically savvy people in the world (the politician sub-species of lawyer) happy and willing to sign of on the next budget. Elon has a highly enthusiastic fan base that are happy to keep putting money in SpaceX's bank account every year or a couple of times each year. BTW, word on the street is that Elon isn't spending his own money and hasn't since the early days.

          NASA doesn't build launch vehicles. The specify the requirements and have input on the design, but contractors do the design details and build them. Most of the time NASA is hiring existing launch vehicles to fly their payloads. Some of the NASA payloads are contracted out. If you have been given a contract to supply something to NASA, it has to work. If you are seen not building something they can use, they can send the contract back out for further bids and cancel yours. SpaceX was going to be the sole supplier of a lunar lander as the winner of three designs that made it to the final round. Now, Blue Origin has been given a contract for an updated design to make sure there is some sort of back up should SpaceX not deliver or not deliver on time.

      4. Malcolm Weir

        Re: Self destruct

        One minor clarification: His Muskiness doesn't have rocket scientists, but he does have Gwynne, and Gwynne Shotwell has rocket scientists!

    4. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Re: most likely because they strayed out of their pre-programmed boundaries

      If you listen before you speak you might not show so much ignorance.

      At separation the booster is on its way to the sea between Florida and Cuba. The plan was to turn around, relight the middle ring of ten engines and go most of the way back to Texas before a controlled drop onto the sea. One of the ten engines did not relight then one of the center three went out followed by several more on the middle ring. The FTS must have worked out that the booster would leave the cleared area so it terminated the flight. Weather radar showed a circle of debris in the area cleared for the flight.

      The oxygen level on the upper stage showed a sudden drop. The FTS must have worked out it could not get all the way to the reserved area north or Hawaii so it terminated the flight. Weather radar showed a long line of debris falling in the cleared area in the Gulf of Mexico.

      All debris remained inside the cleared area. Extending the cleared area will not prevent booster engines shutting down during the boost back burn. It will not prevent the large loss of LOX on the upper stage either.

      Musk thinks rocket science is hard so he listens to rocket scientists. He thinks building cars is medium difficulty so he half listens to automotive engineers. He believes social media is easy so he does not listen to anyone at TwitX. The results speak for themselves.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: most likely because they strayed out of their pre-programmed boundaries

        "Musk thinks rocket science is hard so he listens to rocket scientists."

        He still demands things that are silly and nobody is going to tell him any different or they're sacked.

    5. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Self destruct

      "From what I gather both Super Heavy and Starship were destroyed by their respective Automated Self Destruct (ASD) systems, most likely because they strayed out of their pre-programmed boundaries."

      From the SpaceX feed, it can be seen that the engines on the booster were flaming out in a ragged pattern and the video showed an explosion at the aft end just prior to the whole thing going boom. The question is whether the big event was the FTS or the explosion in the engine bay damaged the airframe between the tanks. The fuel gauges on Starship make it appear that they lost a big Oxygen line or the tank was otherwise venting. For an empty test article, the fuel gauges were pretty low when it blew up. A successful mission would have the craft doing a propulsive landing near Hawaii on the surface of the ocean. Nothing there to hold it up after, but they'd get some good data out of it.

    6. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

      Re: Self destruct

      Generally, if a rocket leaves the launch corridor, and you make the launch corridor more lenient, it'll leave that one as well - but this time with more speed. It's not like KSP where you can "save it" with deft maneuvering.

  3. stiine Silver badge

    Falcon 1 almost broke SpaceX. Falcon 9 continues to set launch, landing, and reuse records.

  4. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

    Corrective action

    In the process, the heavy-lift rocket even destroyed a chunk of its own launch pad. That mess earned SpaceX 63 corrective actions from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) – all of which the space cadets seemingly took on the chin.
    As I understand it, SpaceX proposed those 63 corrective actions.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Corrective action

      "As I understand it, SpaceX proposed those 63 corrective actions."

      The FAA investigation included various findings from a SpaceX-led investigation, but ultimately it was they - the FAA - that proposed the corrective actions.

      https://techcrunch.com/2023/09/08/faa-recommends-63-corrective-actions-to-spacex-in-starship-heavy-incident-report/

      1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Re: Corrective action

        Confused about the downvotes. Downvoting because you don't agree, or because you don't like it? The FAA and SpaceX were clear on this, so not agreeing just means you haven't read it properly ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Corrective action

        It's one of those weird things where the FAA doesn't have the knowledge to actually make the correct proposals because the whole thing is so far outside their normal wheelhouse. So what happens is that basically they investigate together with FAA officials basically just making sure that SpaceX is following the right steps and investigating correctly based on evidence and SpaceX then going to the FAA with it's findings and saying: Here's what we found and what we propose should be changed (or have already changed) and the FAA then turns around and puts those things in it's "standard" reporting and "proposes" those changes to SpaceX.

        It's a bit of: "The rules don't really work, but the rules must be followed" type of deal

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Corrective action

          "It's one of those weird things where the FAA doesn't have the knowledge to actually make the correct proposals because the whole thing is so far outside their normal wheelhouse. "

          Michelle Murray knows a lot about rockets. I just don't know if she has been directed to sign the launch licenses or was the one to make the approval. It would be highly inappropriate for me to phone up and ask.

      3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: Corrective action

        Read your link more carefully. All 63 actions came from SpaceX and TechCrunch does not say anything to the contrary, but could have been more clear. Only 57/63 were required for IFT2, which Tech Crunch misses. Most (if not all) of the 57 were published in very vague form around the time of that article. At the time SpaceX were saying they were ready to go because the FAA were happy with the 63 proposed changes (the FAA gave back the same list of changes they got from SpaceX). The FAA spoke up: they were happy that the changes were sufficient but at the time SpaceX had not proved to the FAA that the 57 had been completed. That was the story you will find from the time explained more clearly on specialized Space related web sites like NASA Spaceflight or Spaceflight Now.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Corrective action

        "but ultimately it was they - the FAA - that proposed the corrective actions."

        A big criticism has been that the FAA has been allowing SpaceX to generate too many of the studies demanded. It was mainly SpaceX that created the fix list. A fair number of things were already in the works since SX knew they were issues, but went ahead with the stoner holiday flight anyway.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

    I thought the point was to have a number of companies producing space ships... How are the others doing?

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

      I thought the point was to have a number of companies producing space ships... How are the others doing?

      Moving slower and breaking things I think. But most impressive to watch it fly, especially with the bass cranked up. After 50+ years, an N1 clone finally almost reached orbit!

      But now to see what the data shows. Seeing all the engines lit and some spectacular shock diamonds was pretty cool, and it seemed to blow fewer chunks off the launch area. Given the idea is for a rapidly reusable vehicle, I'm guessing that's going to be the biggest challenge. One video I saw post launch reckoned part of the tower was damaged, so when they'll successfully catch a falling rocket. Also curious how much damage the hot staging would have done. I guess the top of the booster's designed to be easily replaced though. Bigger challenge is probably figuring out why the booster failed to re-ignite it's engines, but I imagine the seperation's more stressful than a Musk divorce. Scott Manley has a video suspecting fuel starvation, which must be a FUN! challenge to solve with the forces involved.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

        Hardly an N1 clone...

        The only real similarities are the sheer number of engines and the fact that it uses hot staging (although I don't recall the N1 ever getting that far)

        1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

          Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

          The only real similarities are the sheer number of engines and the fact that it uses hot staging (although I don't recall the N1 ever getting that far)

          Yep, 30 engines for the N1, and it managed 4 launches. The 2nd ending especially badly. But that was late '60s. Curious if Russia shared any of the design and data with SpaceX or NASA, or how much of that would be relevant using today's technology. But Starship's design is far from unique, but has advantages from better technology to try and manage everything. Biggest challenge I guess is how long it'll take and how much it'll cost to make it reusable, and if it'll suffer the same fate as N1 in being too expensive & too complicated.

          1. ArrZarr Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

            I think it's difficult to compare the N1 and Starship if I'm honest. Yes, designs with many small engines are harder to handle than designs with few large engines but the power of modern computers and software are functionally infinite compared to what you could fit into a rocket in the '60s along with half a century of development in the field.

            In many ways the N1 is a more elegant design than the Saturn V, but elegance must sometimes take a back seat to efficacy and the brute force of the F-1 turned out to be the correct play over the NK-15 back when the race was on.*

            *And while I'm not a rocket scientist by any means, five stages(!) seems pretty excessive.

            1. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

              "In many ways the N1 is a more elegant design than the Saturn V, but elegance must sometimes take a back seat to efficacy and the brute force of the F-1 turned out to be the correct play"

              The USSR was having no luck in producing engines as large at the F1. They are also so huge that it takes bespoke machinery and some very interesting techniques to build them. Using more and smaller engines can mean the parts can be produced on much more common machinery with larger volumes so it's possible to pick and choose parts in QC. With a really big part, it takes so much time to make that if it's not correct, it can set a whole program back yet another few months. Even with the smaller/more approach, there's things like the Shuttle turbopump impeller that's machined from a single block of Titanium over two continuous weeks. If something happens or a flaw is uncovered in the material, it's another couple of weeks to make another after ordering more very expensive blocks of highly inspected metal.

            2. MachDiamond Silver badge

              Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

              "*And while I'm not a rocket scientist by any means, five stages(!) seems pretty excessive."

              Heinlein's "The Man Who Sold the Moon" touches on the subject of staging and I think it's one of the best explanations I've read. I like that story and it reads better than a dry technical explanation.

            3. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

              "In many ways the N1 is a more elegant design than the Saturn V, but elegance must sometimes take a back seat to efficacy and the brute force of the F-1 turned out to be the correct play over the NK-15 back when the race was on.*"

              There were serious issues with the F1 - combustion instability was seriously threatened the whole Apollo program.

            4. John Robson Silver badge

              Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

              *And while I'm not a rocket scientist by any means, five stages(!) seems pretty excessive.

              It's only as many as Apollo used - the first three to get to orbit, then the rest to get to the moon and back.

          2. DevOpsTimothyC

            Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

            In terms of the N1 going to NASA. I'm not sure if it was from the N1, but about 120 RD-180 engines (made by Russia) were used in the Atlas rockets.

            The reason there are no more Atlas-V rockets is because the USSR only made so many RD-180's for it's space program before it fell apart in the 90's, radically downsized Roscosmos and started selling them off.

          3. AlwaysInquisitive

            Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

            Can we just remember that the Falcon Heavy is fully reusable and has 27 engines. Adding another six isn't a massive deal-breaker. At their second attempt, they got all 33 to burn continuously for 2-3 minutes and stop as planned. Starting of course didn't work successfully, however, that was a stretch goal for the launch, and on top of that, from reading the early days of SpaceX and the Falcon 9, they had to adjust to the unique requirements of the vehicle in the same way. If this this is only the 2nd launch attempt, with a rocket that didn't have thermal tiles even properly tested, they're in very good shape for the next one.

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

        "Seeing all the engines lit and some spectacular shock diamonds was pretty cool"

        As was the shutdown sequence of the booster engines. Very pretty. Will this become a trademark "SpaceX Star", like the "Korolev Cross"?

        "but I imagine the seperation's more stressful than a Musk divorce"

        I've heard it said that is (at least part of) the reason for the sequenced engine shutdowns on the booster. It reduces the "shock" on the entire system, especially the hydraulic shock on the fuel tanks and pumps/pipes etc going from very high acceleration to almost none over a longer time period.

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

          I've heard it said that is (at least part of) the reason for the sequenced engine shutdowns on the booster. It reduces the "shock" on the entire system, especially the hydraulic shock on the fuel tanks and pumps/pipes etc going from very high acceleration to almost none over a longer time period.

          It's not the jerk* thats the issue, it's the flow rate - each engine is pulling about 650kg of propellant each second down the plumbing. That's a very significant amount of fluid momentum (relative to the rocket) to abruptly stop...

          "As was the shutdown sequence of the booster engines. Very pretty. Will this become a trademark "SpaceX Star", like the "Korolev Cross"?"

          I doubt it - it's not really visible for long enough, or without the benefit of the telemetry.

          * jerk - rate of change of acceleration

        2. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

          "As was the shutdown sequence of the booster engines. Very pretty. Will this become a trademark "SpaceX Star", like the "Korolev Cross"?"

          I'm not convinced that shutting down most of the engines is the best approach. For every action, there is an opposite and equal reaction so when Starship lights up it pushes back on the booster which will cause the propellent in booster to move. If Booster is still accelerating, fuel is kept at the bottom of the tanks. I'd love to see the detailed propulsion plans on the boostback maneuver. There's so much going on with regards to G forces that it's hard to visualize. Once forward momentum is killed, I have to wonder how much unpowered flying they can do with just the waffle irons back towards the landing site and how or if they do fuel source shifting to get the propellents in the main tank to re-settle with an initial start of a few engines.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

        "Bigger challenge is probably figuring out why the booster failed to re-ignite it's engines"

        The Booster did relight its engines but many/all flamed out and there was an explosion in the engine bay prior to the whole thing going off bang. Scott's proposals are a good first guess based on early footage. Sucking an air bubble will cause a turbo-pump to explode and rocket engines are very particular about constant and properly balanced fuel flow. To go lean even momentarily will melt a chamber. They run on a knife's edge.

    2. Andy The Hat Silver badge

      Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

      Shhh! You're not allowed to mention competitors' issues whilst the analy inclined are desperately Musky bashing ...

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

      "I thought the point was to have a number of companies producing space ships... How are the others doing?"

      iSpace Completes China’s First Reusable Rocket Test

      Chen Chuanren November 06, 2023

      Video here.

      Ok, ok, I know that's not what you meant :-)

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Weren't NASA also working with Boeing on a rocket?

      "I thought the point was to have a number of companies producing space ships... How are the others doing?"

      Firefly had a rocky start, but is scheduled for customer flights. Electron continues to service customers. Relativity is still in development, but Tim is very clever and has a good chance at succeeding on their next go. Northrup Grumman still send supplies to ISS with their rocket (formerly Obital ATK, formerly Orbital).

      I'm very interested to see Blue Origin fly an orbital mission. They don't get talked about as much, but they don't need the fanfare to attract money as Jeff is paying for it himself. BO also keeps things under their hair until they're ready to do something they have confidence (not Elon's "I'm confident that....") it will work.

      Plenty of others have come and gone mainly because there hasn't been a large increase in paying missions. SpaceX launches a lot but much of that is their own Starlink project which has to be considered separately.

  6. Binraider Silver badge

    No sign of new Glenn, and SLS is a dinosaur moving at a glacial pace too.

    Musk being a nob is a given, but on the test-and-iterate model they are bang on. Consider how Gemini and Apollo advanced quickly by all up testing. Computer models only get you so far.

    If anything happens 'unexpectedly' on the other contenders ships expect another 5-10 years delay, minimum.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      Musk being a nob Nazi is a given

      But like Henry Ford, he gets away with it because he's rich.

      1. A Non e-mouse Silver badge

        Or, like Wernher von Braun, useful to the American military machine.

        1. ArrZarr Silver badge

          With credit to Tom Lehrer

          Don't say that he's hypocritical,

          Say rather that he's apolitical.

          "Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?

          That's not my department, " says Wernher von Braun.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: With credit to Tom Lehrer

            I wish Tom continued to write and perform his little songs.

            1. Jedit Silver badge
              Angel

              "I wish Tom continued to write and perform his little songs"

              He's 95, give him a break. He also wrote far fewer songs than you think, they're just all memorable. He released them into the public domain a few years ago, so there's nothing stopping someone re-recording them.

              I agree, though, that mathematicians-turned-comedians are a good thing. More of us should stand up and be counted.

              1. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: "I wish Tom continued to write and perform his little songs"

                "He also wrote far fewer songs than you think, they're just all memorable."

                I think I have them all in a collection, but after he'd written those few, he swore off and that's what makes me sad.

      2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

        Ahhh reductio al Hitlerum. Didn't take long.

        1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

          When it honks like a goose, steps like a goose...

          1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

            For those who downvoted that, I think I should point out that promoting "tweets" with openly antisemitic tropes in them is not only abhorrent, but also so close to the stuff the actual Nazis did, that the only real difference between Musk and one of Hitler's lot, at this point, is the fact that he's not wearing a swastika armband. Making a valid comparison is neither reductio ad Hilterum nor an application Godwin's Law (Godwin himself states that valid comparisons to fascism are valid).

            Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and all that. It seems that people are being wilfully blind to the similarities between Musk and the industrial-corporatist-fascist complex of Nazi Germany. As has been pointed out elsewhere, Musk is a modern day Henry Ford. There are those who think this a good thing, and those who bother to study history.

    2. Justthefacts Silver badge

      The other guys.

      Have a look at the alternative development flow. One of the main “competitors”, Ariane 6, has yet to run its engines *once* for a full-length burn, in on-ground test. They keep delaying, because they are concerned about various risks. In the mean time, they’ve *built*, yes actually fully built, the first full series of *14 production flight models*. Without any data at all from test. Not just not-flight-tested, not even hot-fire-tested. That money is already spent, at well over €100M per launcher. They assume everything will work like in simulation, and if it doesn’t, then some retrofit mod is actually going to be possible.

      1. graeme leggett Silver badge

        Re: The other guys.

        On the other hand, Ariane have had over 250 launches since late 1970s with about ten losses. Which suggests they know what they are doing

        1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

          Re: Ariane 240/250

          That demonstrates ArianeSpace are excellent at operating rockets. Design is harder to asses because their design was constrained by a very damaging funding model. Half the funding (commercial launch) was taken by SpaceX and partially returned by Amazon/Kuiper. ESA have promised a more sane funding system. We are beginning to see if Ariane are any good at turning design into late launches. (All new rockets launch late but some are later than others.)

          1. LogicGate Silver badge

            Re: Ariane 240/250

            The problem for Ariane is that, historically speaking, there was not a big enough European market to pay for the investment in developing a reusable launch system. At the same time, Europe (France) had a strong interest in having the expertize required for creating launch systems in-house (Nuklear deterrent). With a low number of rockets per year, retention of capability is a higher driving cost thean hardware costs. With the non-zero chance that the mango menache returns to (permanent) power and, because his French fries were dissatisfying, decides to deny Europe all launch services, this thinking has some national security validity, even if it does not make economical sence.

            SpaceX has changed things. One of the (probably) smart things they have done, is to become their own largest buyer of launch capacity. This avoids the danger of market oversaturation.

            Yes, Ariane needs to react and change. But this does not make the original philosophy stupid. It was the results of the situational constraints under which Arianespace had to operate.

            1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

              Re: Ariane 240/250

              Being your own best customer isn't always a good thing: ask any barman! One of things it does do is muddy the accounts and this is true across many of Musk's companies.

              1. LogicGate Silver badge

                Re: Ariane 240/250

                Unless Starlink EARNS it money somewhere else, and earns more money because it can launch at especially low rates.

                The barman analogy assumes a zero sum game. SpaceX-Starlink (why no X in the name?) is not a zero sum game.

                The main question is: Will starlink earn money?

                1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
                  Stop

                  Re: Ariane 240/250

                  This contradicts what you say above.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Ariane 240/250

                <citation needed>

              3. MachDiamond Silver badge

                Re: Ariane 240/250

                "Being your own best customer isn't always a good thing: ask any barman! One of things it does do is muddy the accounts and this is true across many of Musk's companies."

                By some accounts, it may not be possible for Starlink to be profitable. If they spin the business off, having muddied the accounts may allow them to obscure the launch cost component that they've been getting at cost to that point. Since SpaceX is private, they could continue supplying launch services to a separate Starlink if they wanted, but all of the SX investors/stockholders would need to be onboard with that. If they were also holders of publicly traded Starlink stock, there could be ways they could profit by their cross-investments. If there's to be no book fiddling, SX would need to start charging Starlink commercial launch rates. With a five year life span of the sats and a stated 42k constellation, ongoing replacements will require 70 new sats launched every other day forever. Even being very optimistic, Starship won't be able to deploy Starlink sats for another 5 years. Bloody orbital mechanics also means that a full tummy of sats in Starship would need to be going to the same orbit to use the full capacity of the rocket (volume or mass).

            2. Justthefacts Silver badge

              Re: Ariane 240/250

              “The problem for Ariane is that, historically speaking, there was not a big enough European market to pay for the investment in developing a reusable launch system. “

              100% This. They have *defined* it as being “for the Europeans”. And then they are stuck with the consequence that the business case can’t make sense, for a European-only market. Stephane Israel was very candid, and did the sums out loud for everyone to hear: if ArianeSpace make a reusable rocket “for the Europeans”, they need to build a single launcher. tSpaceX are turning around in a week, but even allowing a leisurely turnaround of a fortnight, that provides 25 launches per year. The EU institutional market can’t fill more than 5 or 6 slots per year. If Ariane make only a single operational rocket….then what does their launcher factory workforce do? It’s supposed to provide *jobs*.

              The obvious answer is to re-define the problem. If you think the future requires the economics of re-usable, and re-usable can’t be “for the Europeans”, then you have to specify the use-case for the global launch market. But that means ESA and the Commission don’t get to drive. Which they can’t accept.

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Ariane 240/250

                "The EU institutional market can’t fill more than 5 or 6 slots per year."

                There are commercial European requirements for launch services too. Depending on who they are and what they are launching, they may not be constrained to the cheapest provider, currently SpaceX. I'm not sure if that would be enough for Ariane to break even or remain a gov funded institution though.

              2. LogicGate Silver badge

                Re: Ariane 240/250

                "They have *defined* it as being “for the Europeans”

                No.. Arianespace always tried to sell launches internationally. However, there was this little thing called American protectionism, which meant that many natural "Western type" clients were nudged into buying American instead (see the same thing with arms deals), and prior to SpaceX Russia was trying to gobble up the low cost corner of the market. This left the European market as the main opportunity.

                Deciding to make the best out of a bad situation should not be mistaken for something else.

                1. Justthefacts Silver badge

                  Re: Ariane 240/250

                  Absolutely missing the point. There’s a huge difference between the product you design, when you analyse the global marketplace to hit the sweet spot. Versus the product when you have one key customer, and hope to re-sell into other markets as a bonus. Ariane is the second one. By accident of history, Ariane 5 was a decent match to global requirements, while 6 is a *terrible* match to the newer landscape. I will give a specific example.

                  Ariane 5 has a key design decision to be a heavy lift, accommodating two satellites per launch. The main advantage, is the economies of scale per launch, plus at that time geo telecoms satellites were getting heavier and heavier. But there is one massive disadvantage: from a customer perspective, you have to wait for a rideshare. I’ve *been* that customer, and I can tell you for 100% definite that we decided not to go on Ariane for that reason, on more than one occasion. Ariane 5 lost maybe 20-30% of its market for that reason….but equally picked up several orders due to the lower effective price. And in the end, it’s reliability.

                  When they specified Ariane 6, it was already obvious that the double-size was not the commercial sweet spot. For example, satellites were transitioning to electric propulsion, which makes them much smaller and lighter. From pure commercial, Ariane should (and would) have designed a singleton launcher, which has huge knock-on advantages. If you have to accommodate the heavy 64, there’s no way out of needing solid boosters. Maintaining that capability is huge cost, and logistics issues. By restricting the option of larger payload, a liquid-rocket-only design is feasible. [if you’re thinking “but Starship”, that’s a whole other kettle of fish]

                  However, two issues intruded on reality. First, the EU Commission insisted that they were the anchor customer of Ariane 6, who were focused on launching Galileo. Galileo use case is nicely matched with two satellites going into the same orbit. So, Galileo drove the spec. Secondly, ArianeGroup never wanted to make the Ariane 6 as specified. They viewed it as a “minimum effort / minimum change” evolution of Ariane 5, purely because ESA wanted it built and were prepared to allocate funds for it. So they never seriously considered taking the solid boosters off, or sizing it down to the market requirement. They also saw making it smaller as a “humiliation”, because that was what upstart Avio Vega was, so it was for the “little people”. ArianeGroup wanted to make Ariane Next. And still do. Ariane Next is the reusable rocket that 6 should have been.

                  ArianeGroup *never* believed in the 6 as specified, they did it because they were *told* to. And that is not a recipe for product market fit.

        2. Justthefacts Silver badge

          Re: The other guys.

          SpaceX have rather better success statistics in toto by now. 283 launches, two failures. It’s just that you are trying to redefine the flight tests as launch failures. The universe doesn’t care the difference between an on-ground hot-fire test and a flight hot-fire test. That’s just semantics. And in fact, SpaceX does also pre-build a lot of airframes, although rather fewer than Ariane.

          I’m sure that Ariane 6 will get where it’s going. But the development costs are 5x what they need to be, and it’s taken 3x time it needs to. 6 does nothing that 5 didn’t, it’s pure design iteration. The question is, whether in the modern world there’s any room for that any more. Probably 6 will launch the 30-odd times guaranteed for institutional customers over next decade or so, then it will get retired. Ariane 6 is not going to have a long a career as 5, partly because it’s missed it’s original market window by 6 or 7 years, even in the best case.

          Even ESA seem to have lost patience with ArianeGroup, if you are following what is happening with Avio and RFA. Which is most unfair, because ArianeGroup are just following exactly the process they are told to.

        3. AlwaysInquisitive

          Re: The other guys.

          when you put it like that, that's not that impressive anymore. SpaceX has landed Falcon 9's 230 times - that implies by early next year, they'll have launched more than Ariane in... 40 years?

      2. Skiver

        Re: The other guys.

        Blowing up millions of dollars of hardware is not success.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: The other guys.

          The depends on the definition of success and whether "millions of dollars" is a significant amount of the budget. See, for example, the deliberate test to destruction of various systems, especially fuel tanks and the various attempts to launch and land prototype Starships. And the many "failures" that lead to Falcon being the success it is today.

          SpaceX have always said, when launching a test vehicle, what their primary aims and goals are, and rarely to they claim, in the early to mid stages of testing, that the entire aim is a 100% successful mission completing all the way to landing or orbit. The first Starship had a primary goal of testing the launch systems and clearing the tower. Everythi9ng else was "stretch targets". The second launch had a stated goal of reaching for a successful hot-stage separation, everything following were stretch goals. The next launch will probably have a primary goal of getting one or both into a landing position, although I have no doubt they will still be "landing" over water for safety reasons, just as they did with Falcon when it was still in testing.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: The other guys.

            "The first Starship had a primary goal of testing the launch systems and clearing the tower. Everythi9ng else was "stretch targets"."

            Ahh, no. The stated goals were to send Starship to a water landing off of Hawaii with the booster "landing" in the Gulf of Mexico. Success was redefined post facto.

            Elon's statement that he would be happy with just clearing the tower he gives low odds beyond that was a big red flag and the license should have been pulled at that point and reevaluated with those new goals. The sovereign country of Mexico is only 2km from the Boca Chica launch site. There would be diplomatic issues with a test article landing on top of a village just over the border.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      "No sign of new Glenn, and SLS is a dinosaur moving at a glacial pace too."

      Blue Origin isn't big on hoopla. When they make some announcements, that will be close to when they've scheduled some test flights of New Glenn. Since Jeff is funding BO mainly out of his own pocket, there's no need for PR to bring in investors or keep them enthusiastic about their investment. I expect he's going to be more focused on doing things right and not blowing things up needlessly.

      SLS was always on a long interval schedule, but it seems to be on track now as long as all of the parts from the various vendors show up on time and pass QC. It's stupid money and made far more expensive by being a pet project of Congress rather than NASA led project. The US may have already had people back on the moon if NASA was just given the goal and enough money to do the job. More money was left behind in Afghanistan that NASA gets in three years.

      1. Binraider Silver badge

        The deepest US involvement in Vietnam was bang on in parallel to the development of Apollo.

        Considerably more expensive as a proportion of GDP at the time than Afghanistan ever got to.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          "Considerably more expensive as a proportion of GDP at the time than Afghanistan ever got to."

          I looked up NASA's budget (~$24bn) and the estimated value of the equipment hastily left behind in Afghanistan (~$85bn) and didn't bother with GDP percentages. Never mind the cost of the Afghan compaign in the first place which was lots more. The US should have learned from the Soviet invasion that there's nothing there to get excited about and no way to "win", however you want to define what winning would be.

  7. John Robson Silver badge

    Conrgatulations due

    for both a very successful test and a great show for those watching.

    I'm still concerned at the amount of leakage from the "knee" of the water deluge system every time it fires - but there's quite alot of water taking a right angle bend in a pipe which isn't well supported by concrete... I am surprised it's such a sharp corner, rather than a more gentle curve.

    1. FeepingCreature Bronze badge

      Re: Conrgatulations due

      I don't think those are leaks. Don't have a source, but I remember reading it's intentional. Not sure why though - indicators?

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Conrgatulations due

        Prevention/mitigation of water-hammer I suspect

        1. Killing Time

          Re: Conrgatulations due

          'Prevention/mitigation of water-hammer I suspect'

          'Water hammer' is a result of rapid pressure changes in a closed system, classically caused by steam condensing and flashing off.

          Not really seeing that as the reason.

          1. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Conrgatulations due

            Water hammer can also happen from a tap suddenly opening or closing, causing a shockwave/pressure spike due yo the momentum of the water column and the (relative) incompressibility of water compared to the pipe that contains it (the well known klunk in the pipes if you shut your tap/faucet too fast). A sudden massive increase in flow can have a similar effect at a 90 degree bend in a pipe. The initial water column basically hits the rear wall of the pipe and stops dead, before normal flow is established, causing a pressure spike above normal pipe shove. This is also typically called water hammer afaik.

            1. Killing Time

              Re: Conrgatulations due

              I think you missed the bit where I said ' closed system'. If you shut the tap/faucet you just created a closed system.

              RE: the bit about the flow stopping dead at a 90 Deg bend, certainly not (according to the fluid dynamics and my years of experience in process industries) in an open system.

              In all probability the flow at the joint is nothing more than vent at a pipework low point to stop any standing water. This is common practice in fire deluge installations where they don't even bother with a valve as it's just one more thing to go wrong. As long as the primary flow route is far bigger than the vent the losses are negligible.

              1. John Robson Silver badge

                Re: Conrgatulations due

                It's pretty clearly coming from the top of the "gravity valve".

      2. John Robson Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: Conrgatulations due

        I'd be interested to see a source on that - I haven't seen anything on the knees which looks like it might be the cause, but no-one else seems to comment on it, so I have almost certainly missed something.

        If they were a leak I suppose it would likely get *worse* during deluge, which doesn't appear to be the case.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: a very successful test

      Seems to be a bit of a Pyrrhic victory to me. I thought the innovation of SpaceX was a reusable first stage. They might want to restart testing that part of their rocket.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: a very successful test

        There was no loss above and beyond what was intended for the flight, in what way could that possibly be considered pyrrhic?

        The aim here is fully, and rapidly, reusable - but this was always a test with the hardware being discarded in pieces at the bottom of the ocean.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: a very successful test

          FWIW, if they'd reached all their stretch goals, there's a good chance both parts would be in one piece and hopefully floating on the ocean :-)

          Although I suspect pretty much everyone in SpaceX never expected to reach that goal this early in the test phase .

          1. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: a very successful test

            Not floating for long.

      2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        Re: re-use

        Starship is not a new upper stage on a tried and tested reusable booster. The new booster is 2.5x the diameter with a different fuel, pressurization, engines and combustion cycle. As Falcon tanks empty the space at the top of the tanks (ullage) is filled with cold helium from high pressure tanks. Starship uses hot methane and oxygen from the engines. If the propellant sloshes the ullage cools and the pressure can drop below the minimum required at the engine inlet. This was never a possible problem with cold helium.

        Boosters are going to explode, crash into the sea and 'land' on the sea before any attempt is made to catch one. Even then, the first few boosters that survive will likely be analyzed to destruction before any relaunch. Hopefully the rocket will be earning its keep launching Starlinks long before then.

        The only people relying on landing and re-use working first time are Blue Origin.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a very successful test

        Have they managed a reusable Starship yet?

        1. John Robson Silver badge

          Re: a very successful test

          Have you learned to read yet?

          1. This post has been deleted by its author

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: a very successful test

          "Have they managed a reusable Starship yet?"

          Yes. Once they passed that milestone, they stopped test launching them and went back to developing the launch/catch tower and the booster for it to sit on.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: a very successful test

            Perhaps, that should have been have they reused a Starship yet?

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: a very successful test

          "Have they managed a reusable Starship yet?"

          They have been able to land one without it exploding/crashing.

      4. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: a very successful test

        If you remember the original development of Falcon 9 - it was not reusable. It was designed to be reusable, but they spent their limited engineering time on getting it to work at its main job first. Then, with successful launches under their belt, they started experimenting with bringing first stages near to sea. Then near to a barge. Then to fall over on a barge and explode. And only then to land on the barge - and eventually what has now become a routine process of landing back at the launch facility.

        This was the advantage of already being cheaper, even before they could re-use the rockets. It meant they could charge the market rate, and only lower their prices once they had working multi-use rockets.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: a very successful test

          FWIW, the first successful landing was on land, 4 months before the first successful barge landing. And it's still breath-taking, even now, every time :-)

          I think it was the 20th Falcon 9 and 16th successful launch, or numbers very close to that.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. imanidiot Silver badge

    "Yet, there is one organization that seems less than chuffed about last week's endeavors – and that is, once again, the FAA, which chose the word "mishap" over "progress" or "test."

    "The FAA will oversee the SpaceX-led mishap investigation to ensure SpaceX complies with its FAA-approved mishap investigation plan and other regulatory requirements," "

    I wouldn't read too much into the wording of the FAA here. "mishap" is just the standard word for the standard form and process they'll use for the investigation. No-one's intentionally flown a rocket they knew would likely blow up before so the FAA doesn't have the standardized words or processes set up to account for those sorts of tests. So everything becomes a mishap. Whether it's 2 aircraft unintentionally getting a bit close in a traffic pattern or a multi-million pound rocket (expectedly) going KABOOM!

  9. Crypto Monad Silver badge

    "The engines burned over 40,000 pounds of fuel per second"

    18.1 *tonnes* of fuel per second?? That's mad! (But true).

    Super Heavy Booster capacity is 3400t of propellant - so roughly 3 minutes of burn at that rate.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: "The engines burned over 40,000 pounds of fuel per second"

      It also really shows how much the relative thrust changes between the start and end of the first stage.

      You're removing the mass of a small lorry every second for 180 seconds.

      The numbers involved with this thing are really difficult to get your head around.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "The engines burned over 40,000 pounds of fuel per second"

        "You're removing the mass of a small lorry every second for 180 seconds."

        Or, to be more UK (BBC especially) oriented, we need to know how many Olympic sized swimming pools[*] per minute that is :-)

        * which in realty is only a defined length with a certain minimum width and minimum depth, both of which can be much greater, hence a wildly varying volume!

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: "The engines burned over 40,000 pounds of fuel per second"

      It's odd, but it seems to be a "thing" for huge numbers. 40,000lbs sounds a lot more than 20t (sticking with non-metric tons for less confusion)

      I see/hear it a lot in US based media. I'm sure the general US public could probably understand and maybe visualise 20t more easily than 40,000lbs too, but it simply doesn't have the same dramatic effect when a newscaster or narrator can say, in a deep gravely voice, "FORTY...THOUSAND...POUNDS!!!!!" instead of a wimpy small number like:"twenty..err...tons" -)

      (The oddest unit measurement I've heard spoken is 4 quarts!)

      Conversely, in UK media, large masses such the article are almost always given in Tonnes, not Kg. Kg is usually reserved for sub 1t masses.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A magnificent

    Explosion

  11. Mishak Silver badge

    Units

    Can we __please__ have things in SI units as well for those of us who are under 60 and/or live a country that doesn't use "old measures"?

    1. Geoff May (no relation)

      Re: Units

      I whinged about something very similar 5 years ago:

      https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2018/04/09/sulfur_dioxide_volcano_life_earth/#c_3480671

      And I am not under 60 ...

    2. ArrZarr Silver badge

      Re: Units

      To be fair, pounds to kilos isn't awful. I usually just divide by two.

      If you want to be snazzy, take away 10%, then divide by two.

      That being said, I agree it would be nice to have units in something that the vast majority of the world uses.

      1. Andy The Hat Silver badge

        Re: Units

        Bulgarian funbags per minute? Blue whales per second? I can't recall whether they are volume or mass but there's a conversion factor there somewhere :-)

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: Units

          "Bulgarian funbags per minute? Blue whales per second? I can't recall whether they are volume or mass but there's a conversion factor there somewhere :-)"

          The explosion of a full mix of Oxygen and Methane can be described in kilotons of TNT exploding, let's use that. With that thinking, the whole booster going bang with fully loaded tanks can be on the close order of 15kt or about the size of the bomb dropped by the US on Hiroshima. Divide by three for fuel use per second and you are all set.

  12. Greybearded old scrote
    Mushroom

    Possibly expecting too much

    I think we are comparing a new machine with the reliability expected from the established boosters. There is ample footage of past failures to show how hard it is to get there.

    Come to that if your first flights are perfect your ship is over engineered and over weight. And you don't know where you can sensibly save weight.

  13. Jedit Silver badge
    Boffin

    "Rapid unscheduled disassembly"

    SpaceX may or may not be able to produce a working rocket, but they've definitely produced my favourite euphemism of the year.

    1. LogicGate Silver badge

      Re: "Rapid unscheduled disassembly"

      That is an old euphemism within rocket engineering.. as is lithobraking.

      The major novelty is that SpaceX embrases the terminology and uses it publicly.

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: "Rapid unscheduled disassembly"

        My favorite is "reaching ocean synchronous orbit"

      2. Orv Silver badge

        Re: "Rapid unscheduled disassembly"

        "Engine-rich combustion" is another favorite of mine.

    2. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: "Rapid unscheduled disassembly"

      It should be "RUDE" for Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly Event". You then get the comment "oh, that was rude".

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    SpaceX to pivot

    It's my understanding, and by that I mean I'm totally making this up, that SpaceX is rebranding as a fireworks company.

    China is the biggest fireworks market in the world, in world history even.

    SpaceX makes the largest exploding rockets.

    Ergo, SpaceX's secret deal China is why Musk is so gleeful everytime his rockets blow up. That's the whole point.

    I'm sure if hackers looked in Musk's email inbox, they'd fine lots from Xi Jinping along the lines, "Because your November rocket exploded higher than the last one, I'm releasing half of the $100 USD billion we promised, with the rest coming after your next explosion, IF you can repeat the feat but much higher as planned. Eternally yours, Xinny J. PS Thanks for your advice to double our Uygur processing. It worked!"

  15. UCAP Silver badge

    FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

    I can't see a lot of people being happy if an autonomous FTS is left in Starship when it has a crewed capsule perched on its nose. Not unless the FTS does a whole lot me than decide to blow the stage apart - it's going to need to ensure that the capsule is detached and at a safe distance before lighting the blue touch paper.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

      Falcon 9 has an automatic FTS on board when carrying the Crew Dragon.

      There was quite an impressive test of F9 + Crew Dragon where they deliberately aborted the capsule and the F9 exploded, and the Dragon got clear: https://youtu.be/DJ70N5HahDU?t=45

      If I recall correctly, Musk said that the capsule would have got clear if the explosion had triggered the abort rather than the other way round and we would have seen the Dragon fly out of the fireball.

      I would imagine that the events leading to the ATFS triggering would be likely to trigger an abort before then anyway (loss of engines, etc.)

      There was always a worry that with a manual FTS on a crew mission - and yes, they all have an FTS (*) - that the human standing by the big red button might not do it. There was some care taken (I read somewhere, possibly "Riding Rockets" by Mike Mullane) to make sure the FTS officer never met any of the astronauts in case that further inhibited them. The shuttle didn't have a "get clear" mechanism in the same way that the Crew Dragon does so I think it was taken that an FTS trigger would also likely destroy the orbiter...

      (*) I think the Russian rockets don't have one or at least this one didn't: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/uiT1l76Z77g which given that it was cargo only is a bit surprising. It ended up crashing close enough to a nearby town/city that the explosion broke windows: https://youtu.be/wX5GD1N7bEw?t=28 so the lack of FTS could have been disastrous...

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

        "There was quite an impressive test of F9 + Crew Dragon where they deliberately aborted the capsule and the F9 exploded, and the Dragon got clear"

        The static ground test of the capsule abort system was also very spectacular, but in a bad way.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

          You mean this one? https://youtu.be/1_FXVjf46T8?t=8

          Looks pretty good to me...

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

            "You mean this one?"

            No, the one where they had it fixed to a stand and when they pushed the big red button, it detonated.

    2. Mishak Silver badge

      Re: FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

      The "capsule" is also a rocket in its own right, and has its own AFTS (Automated FTS) - it does not have enough fuel to abort-to-orbit, but it would be interesting to see what landing options are available if it were to expend it's fuel (it can't land until it uses or looses it).

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

        If Dan Dare is in the pilot seat, he'll find a way, even if it means looking out the windows to see where he is!

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

      "Starship when it has a crewed capsule perched on its nose."

      Starship IS the "capsule". Nothing will be "perched on it's nose". Although I do admit it can be a little confusing since the Booster + Starship are also collectively referred to as Starship too.

    4. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: FTS on a Manned Starship Launch

      "I can't see a lot of people being happy if an autonomous FTS is left in Starship when it has a crewed capsule perched on its nose."

      A human rated system with safe crew abort feature is scheduled to start development next year. This is the "next year" in a similar way as Tesla model releases which might mean they're "fixin'" to start in on it real soon now.

  16. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

    The operation was a success!

    ...but the patient died...

  17. This post has been deleted by its author

  18. Mike 137 Silver badge

    Down to corporate strategy?

    As an engineer I can't help thinking that these incidents might stem from much the same causes as spaceX's not too brilliant health and safety record.1 It's "move fast and break things" all over. I have a nasty feeling that such a policy won't be too effective on Mars, a harsh environment where there'll be practically no latitude for error. But of course His Muskiness probably ain't planning to go there himself.

    1. Warning: some of this report may be distressing

    .

  19. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Happy

    Well it achieved something

    1. 33 engines lit on the booster(first time , including all the ground fire tests)

    2. The pad in one piece after 33 engines were lit and ramped to full power

    3. Max Q

    4. Hot staging

    5. Automated FTS destroyed booster when it began having problems after the flip

    6. 6 engines lit in flight on the star ship

    7. Starship in SPace! Space!

    8. FTS worked when starship had an in-flight problem (ran out of gas/early engine shutdown)

    And while musk is a pillock, this was only starships 2nd full up flight.... the soviets lost 4 N1 rockets and they planned on having 12 test flights before launching to the moon. and even the mighty Saturn 5 had problems on its first all up test flight(pogo'ing and fuel line breakage)... not counting how many F1 engines NASA blew up until they cured the combustion instability problem.

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Well it achieved something

      "8. FTS worked when starship had an in-flight problem (ran out of gas/early engine shutdown)"

      I haven't seen that #8 is proven at this point. The loss of Oxygen is worrying and might have also led to the explosion of the craft.

    2. Bbuckley

      Re: Well it achieved something

      And don't forget Apollo 13 - a mishap on they way. Oh, I nearly forgot. Where is the European Ariane 6 anyone?

  20. Orv Silver badge

    Certainly a major step forward in his quest to ensure a place for the human white race in space.

    1. Bbuckley

      You can say that when "people of colour" make a spaceship that can go to the planet mars. Until then. Shut up foo.

  21. Daniel Pfeffer

    Definitions

    The launch was successful. The rest of the mission, not so much.

  22. StudeJeff

    Spaceflight... things go boom!

    History has shown us that when dealing with rockets rapid unexpected disassembly is common in during the development process.

    How many Falcons did Space X blow up before getting them figured out? Now it's the most reliable launch system out there.

    Trying something, seeing what breaks, fixing that and moving on is a very common and legitimate development tool, and Space X has a history of doing it effectively.

    It's just rather spectacular when something breaks.

    We live in pretty dark times, and what Space X is doing reminds us of the positive things we humans can accomplish.

  23. Bbuckley

    SpaceX is the most innovative and forward-facing company the world has ever seen in the history of the world. If it were not for SpaceX we would witness two or three launches per year and the way back to the moon and onto mars would be hundreds of years in the future, rather than likely a decade or two. Anyone who doubts SpaceX are living in a bubble of their own hopeless delusion. Or maybe they are eco-ideology fanatics who are afraid of Evolution by Natural Selection?

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like