My perspective on the test flight is that it didn't make every milestone I was watching for or cared about, but it did pretty darned well.
To begin with, the pad improvements seemed to prevent anything bad from happening - in particular, no chunks of concrete flew up into the engines destroying some and causing a fuel leak that eventually would kill the vehicle.
All 33 engines ignited and ran for the entire required amount of time. Hot staging worked; the engines were cut in groups until only three remained running, Starship 25's six Raptor engines lit; first the outer ring of three vacuum raptors, and then the inner three sea level Raptors lit as Booster 9 was dropping away.
Booster 9's destruction as it dropped away strikes me as unimportant - in the short term it's a "don't care." My example is the Falcon 9 as they were working on getting it to land successfully. The way I understand their cost model is that once the paying customer's payload was on the way, the booster was garbage so they were going to experiment on the piece of garbage as if it was something they found on the side of a road. If they want to just throw a booster away, they'd do what every other launch company in the world does; drop it and "fuggedaboutit." They were going to throw this one away but they were going to play with it first. They started to play with it and it turned out less than ideally. Don't care.
Look at that array of 33 engines, all of them lit and firing, all of their exhaust trails looking to be the same color. In other views you can see the Mach diamonds in the exhaust better than this shot. John Kraus photo from X.
As is often the case, Scott Manley on YouTube posts a video in which he has taken a preliminary dive into the behavior of the booster. His conclusion is that the booster's engines were interrupted by the flip and burn back maneuver the booster was doing. Picture a long, skinny tank being rotated end over end; at some point, inertia can have the fuel at the top of the tank, and unable to flow into the engines. It helps to know that often, with stages that coast between burns while on orbit, they use thrusters of some sort, or some other power to start the stage moving. The inertia gets the fuel to the bottom of the tank, where it needs to be. The tanks on the Super Heavy booster still have tons of LOX and Liquid CH4 in them and the abrupt rotations might well have forced engines to run without one or both fluids.
The moment of staging - at the bottom of the booster, you can see a triangle caused by the three engines left running. The bright spot at the top of the booster/bottom of the ship is the hot staging taking place. The "psychedelic color" cloud is the exhaust plume around the two. Image credit: SpaceX.
Unfortunately, Manley doesn't have as much to say about the Starship's
failure. Starship made it into space; in videos that he goes through the
data coming down from Ship25 freezes and stays at a pair of values for a while. The
speed is 24,124 km/hr or just under 15,000 mph while LEO orbital velocity is
generally given in the vicinity of 17,000 mph. Altitude was 148 km, or
91.96 miles. Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic sell seats on tourist rides
to space that don't go that high or that fast. Starship seems to have
been around 15% short of orbital velocity, but this was billed as a suborbital flight so they'd better be short of orbital velocity. I don't know what their
Starship seems to have also undergone a spontaneous explosion. Excuse
me, it underwent a RUD, to borrow Elon's old joke everyone has been using
today. I'll start using my own redneck version of that, IDBU - It Done
Blowed Up - pronounced id-boo. Scott shows a few seconds of evidence in
his video that imply something went wrong that caused Starship to consume
I view the Starship anomaly more seriously than the booster not being
reusable. Of course, they weren't going to reuse this ship after this
flight; it was going to belly flop in to the Pacific north of Hawaii, but I'm
automatically suspicious because while there were test flights of Starships
before, none of them went this high. Is the problem something related to
flying in this range? Doesn't seem possible.
I've already seen mentions of the next test, IFT 3, being NET February '24. Three months instead of seven? I'm not sure the FAA could evacuate their buildings in three months if they were burning down.