What happened to Starship?

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SpaceX's Starship, a powerful vehicle designed to carry NASA astronauts to the moon, underwent its second test flight on November 18, 2023. The launch took place from the coast of South Texas and was observed to have made significant progress compared to its first flight in April of the same year. However, the test flight was not a complete success as SpaceX did not achieve the test launch’s ultimate objective — a partial trip around the world ending in a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean1. The first Starship launch had resulted in significant damage to the launch site, with several engines on the booster failing, fires knocking out the steering of the rocket, and the flight termination system taking too long to explode. The second flight, however, showed that SpaceX had fixed these key issues. Despite this, the second flight revealed new challenges that need to be overcome1. During the second launch, the Starship successfully performed "hot staging," where the six engines of the upper stage ignited before the booster dropped away. However, a few minutes later, contact was lost with the Starship vehicle12. The Starship vehicle reached space but broke apart late in its ascent after successfully demonstrating the performance of its booster and a new stage separation technique3. The automated flight termination system on Starship was activated "very late in the burn," but it was not indicated why3. Despite the challenges, many outside observers remain optimistic that SpaceX will get Starship to work fully. The company is planning to make both parts of the vehicle fully and rapidly reusable, which has the potential to significantly drive down the cost of launching satellites, space telescopes, people, and the things they need to live into space1. SpaceX is under contract with NASA to adapt Starship as a lunar lander to take two astronauts to the moon’s south polar regions. The first landing is currently scheduled for late 2025, but it is considered likely to slip to 2026. SpaceX is also under contract to provide a Starship lander for the second crewed landing, scheduled for 20281.
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