February 5, 2021


SpaceX, Flight

What goes up, must come down.

On February 2, 2021, I was lucky to witness SN9's launch by Elon Musk's "SpaceX." I just happened too be at the right place, at the right time. Staying on South Padre I was witness to the second failure of an Elon MuskStarship. SN8 had crashed recently and SN9 just exploded upon its short lived flight. I was witness to it as it smashed into the ground exploding into a massive fireball.

This launch was a three day wait as weather and the FAA was not cooperating.

With that, I was able to prep and research the best way to attempt photos in this area and under the conditions of weather and a distance of over 5 miles from where I was. On February 2, I set out to the laguna for what I thought would be an hours wait. I was watching the count down and the clock would get to eight minutes and they would add an hour or two. Twenty minutes out the clocked stopped as they had to remove a person from the area, so we waited again.

Once the clock began counting down again we hit the 5 minutes out mark and a slight puff of smoke released from the top third of the space craft.

"It was a go."

I had my Nikon D850, set up on my most heavy tripod, a Manfrotto with a very sturdy pistol grip. Making sure the set up had the ability to fold back all the way flat so I could capture the rocket as it shot high into the sky. My lens choice was my Tamron. 150-600, F5/6.3.

Upon blastoff all things looked good. According to then teslaratiat.com website, "After completing an otherwise flawless 6.5 minutes launch, ascent, and belly-flop desert, StarshipSN9 began a critical -120-degree flip maneuver,sequentially igniting two Raptor engines and using that thrust to flip from belly-down attitude to a tail-first landing configuration. Unfortunately, though the first Rapture did fire up and put in a good effort, the second engine failed to ignite, leaving the building-sized rocket to impact the ground traveling far too quickly." To quote Elon Musk via Twitter when asked about the failure, he responded "We were too dumb."

What I captured is all pictorially documented in the following posted photos. Shooting from over 5 miles away, I was able to capture the entire episode.

When it was apparent that the rocket was not going to land vertically as designed and coming in at a 45 degree angle, I just kept my finger on the shutter, shooting 9 frames per second and was able to capture the explosion. Then, I drove over to Boca Chica to see the aftermath of what was left. It was an interesting drive. As you head over to Boca Chica beach you literally have to drive with in yards of both the space center and the launch pad. The second set of photos show what is left of the wreckage and Starship SN10 as it waits on the launch pad for the next launch.

I am grateful for the opportunity to capture a historical event.

Pre Failure- Booster not igniting

What is left and what is to come

The next rocket sits on the launch pad ready to go.