THE NEW SPACE RACE: SpaceX discloses cause of Starship anomalies as it clears an FAA hurdle.

SpaceX noted that the Super Heavy first stage of the rocket performed nominally, with all 33 Raptor engines on this massive rocket igniting successfully. The booster then performed a full-duration burn to reach stage separation. At this point, the upper stage executed a successful “hot staging” maneuver in which the Starship stage separated from the booster while some of the booster’s engines were still firing.

For the Super Heavy booster, the next step was to perform a series of burns to make a soft landing in the Gulf of Mexico. As part of the initial burn, 13 of the rocket’s engines were intended to fire.

“During this burn, several engines began shutting down before one engine failed energetically, quickly cascading to a rapid unscheduled disassembly of the booster,” SpaceX said. “The vehicle breakup occurred more than three and a half minutes into the flight at an altitude of ~90 km over the Gulf of Mexico.”

The problem was subsequently linked to a problem with supplying liquid oxygen to the Raptor engines.

“The most likely root cause for the booster RUD was determined to be filter blockage where liquid oxygen is supplied to the engines, leading to a loss of inlet pressure in engine oxidizer turbopumps that eventually resulted in one engine failing in a way that resulted in loss of the vehicle,” the company stated. “SpaceX has since implemented hardware changes inside future booster oxidizer tanks to improve propellant filtration capabilities and refined operations to increase reliability.”

OK, let’s get to that third test flight.