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SpaceX tracking camera shows Starship stage separation up close

SpaceX continues to share incredible footage and images from Saturday’s uncrewed test flight of the world’s most powerful rocket.

The Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft — collectively known as the Starship — roared toward space from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, powered by around 17 million pounds of thrust — about twice that of the Saturn V rocket used for the Apollo missions and NASA’s new Space Launch System lunar rocket.

SpaceX on Wednesday released some remarkable slow-motion video (below) showing the spacecraft successfully separating from the first-stage booster. Watch carefully and you can even see most of the Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor engines shutting off:

Tracking camera footage of Super Heavy MECO (most engines cut off) as 30 of the booster's 33 Raptor engines shut down in preparation for hot-staging

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 22, 2023

Saturday’s mission was only the second integrated test flight of the 400-foot-tall space vehicle, but this was the first time it achieved stage separation.

Both sections of the rocket were lost soon afterward, but the SpaceX team rated the mission a success overall and said it would use the gathered data to improve the flight system before going again.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said this week that a new Starship will be ready to fly again in December. The final decision, however, is in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration, which is still carrying out an investigation into Saturday’s mission.

SpaceX had numerous cameras — both still and video — trained on the last weekend’s spectacular launch. Check out these astonishing images of the 33 Raptor engines pushing the rocket away from the launchpad. There’s also this fabulous 360-degree video that puts you right on the launch tower, and a close tracking shot showing the gargantuan rocket as it roars away from Earth.

Once fully developed, the Starship should be capable of carrying crew and cargo on missions to deep space and could be used for the first crewed mission to Mars. There are also plans to use it for the first civilian mission to the moon, a trip paid for by Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and involving a passenger list of nine people.

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Trevor Mogg
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