SpaceX's 2nd Starship launch test looks amazing in these stunning photos and videos

SpaceX launched its Starship megarocket, the most powerful rocket on Earth, on its second test flight this weekend, and while the vehicle may have met an explosive end, its flight absolutely amazing to behold. 

Stunning photos and video by SpaceX,, news wires and the public show the sheer spectacle of the Starship second test launch, which SpaceX launched early Saturday (Nov. 18) from its Starbase facility near Boca Chica Beach in South Texas. 

In a big milestone for SpaceX, the rocket's two stages separated successfully. The Super Heavy booster exploded shortly thereafter, while the Starship upper stage detonated before completing its launch burn. Still, SpaceX hailed the second test flight, which reached space and flew higher, farther and longer than a debut launch in April, as a success and will now study the flight to make any enhancements needed for the next launch.

Related: SpaceX Starship launches on 2nd test flight, but explodes

"Seeing Starship launch in person was incredible,"'s Josh Dinner said of the sight.

Dinner captured photos of the Starship launch from South Padre Island's Cameron Country Amphitheatre, where throngs of spectators gathered well before sunrise to pick a great spot to watch the launch.

"Even from 5 miles away, you could see the sheer power from the engines as it cleared the launch tower," Dinner said. "It was massively impressive."

Related: NASA chief congratulates SpaceX on Starship's explosive 2nd launch test

Photojournalist Timothy A. Clary with the news agencies AFP and Getty Images, also captured stunning photos of the Starship launch, including close views of the rocket's liftoff and ascent just before stage separation.

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If you can't see SpaceX's Starship in person, you can score a model of your own. Standing at 13.77 inches (35 cm), this is a 1:375 ratio of SpaceX's Starship as a desktop model. The materials here are alloy steel and it weighs just 225g.

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Some of the most amazing early photos came from SpaceX itself, which captured the specific moment of stage separation, which tested a hot-staging technique —something new for Starship on this flight — in which the upper Starship upper stage fired its engines before pulling free of the Super Heavy first-stage booster.

The moment of stage separation for SpaceX's second Starship rocket and Super Heavy booster. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Another view of the hot-staging event. (Image credit: SpaceX)

The exhaust plume of SpaceX's Starship is illuminated by its hot-staging event at stage separation. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX and Dinner also captured some great closeups of the joined Starship and Super Heavy, which together stand nearly 400 feet (122 meters) tall, as they soared over the Gulf of Mexico.

This view from a SpaceX tracking camera shows all 33 Raptor engines firing on the Starship Super Heavy first stage. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)'s Josh Dinner capture this view of spectators on boats around South Padre Island watching as Starship lifted off. (Image credit: Future/Josh Dinner)

SpaceX launched its Starship test flight shortly after sunrise on Nov. 18, with the twilight enhancing the view in this image by's Josh Dinner. (Image credit: Future/Josh Dinner)

One last view from Josh Dinner of the full Starship Super Heavy stack in flight. (Image credit: Future/Josh Dinner)

Shortly after stage separation, the Super Heavy booster exploded in what SpaceX called a "rapid unscheduled disassembly." The company will now work to understand what led to this failure after the hot staging and how to avoid it on the next test flight. 

SpaceX's giant Starship Super Heavy booster explodes after separating from its upper stage during the company's second flight test on Nov. 18, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Across the social media site X, formerly known as Twitter, spectators and photographers appeared thrilled to have witnessed the Starship launch test. 

But some of the most telling images came from after the launch, when photographers were able to visit the launch pad and report it in good condition. 

During SpaceX's first launch test on April 20, the Super Heavy booster carved out a huge crater beneath the pad, requiring extensive repairs. For the second flight, SpaceX installed a water deluge system and protective metal plate to safeguard the pad.

"The pad at Starbase appears to be in good condition following this morning’s Starship launch!," wrote photographer John Kraus on X. "The road to the beach is open."

Here are some more pad views from photographers. 

Some spectators watching Starship's second test flight included people who have not only flown in space before, but actually launched on SpaceX rockets. 

Sian Proctor, who launched to orbit in September 2021 a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule on the private Inspiration4 mission financed by billionaire Jared Isaacman, sent congratulations to the entire SpaceX team for the launch.

"Congratulations to all of the people at SpaceX on continuing to make history in the advancement of humanity to the Moon, Mars and beyond!!" Proctor wrote on X.

SpaceX engineers now have the task ahead to understand why the Starship vehicle detonated itself using its flight termination system just before completing its launch burn. The company has said it will also study Super Heavy's explosion so future iterations of the vehicle can be returned to Earth for reuse, as it and Starship are designed to do.

"Honestly, it's such an incredibly successful day even though we did have a rapid unscheduled disassembly of both the Super Heavy booster and the Ship," SpaceX quality engineering manager Kate Tice said during the live webcast. "That's great. We got so much data, and that will all help us to improve for our next flight."

NASA has picked SpaceX's Starship to land astronauts on the moon on the Artemis 3 mission, which the agency hopes to launch by 2025 or 2026. Meanwhile, SpaceX has already sold trips around the moon on Starship to commercial customers, such as Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, and hopes to use the vehicle for deep space flights to Mars and other solar system destinations.

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.