SpaceX's most recent launch went awry and they triggered the self-destruct. Crewed missions have a launch escape system which is a high-thrust rocket that can get the capsule clear of the main rocket body in emergencies.

After the launch-escape, self-destructing the crippled rocket would reduce downrange threats to the ground. But for every safety feature you must consider what happens if it is accidentally activated. So presumably it's not worth the risk to include a detonate-booster feature on crewed missions?

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    $\begingroup$ I wonder what that red flashing light is…… $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2023 at 8:35
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    $\begingroup$ The Starship is not planned to have a crew escape system. space.stackexchange.com/q/46079/6944 $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2023 at 11:36
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    $\begingroup$ Or the starship's engines are themselves the escape system, if you want to look at it that way. $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2023 at 19:11
  • $\begingroup$ related: Will a computer be allowed to "self-destruct" astronauts (or passengers)? $\endgroup$
    – uhoh
    Apr 26, 2023 at 23:16
  • $\begingroup$ Given the severity of the self-destruct, it'll be designed to prevent accidental triggers. We have been able to avoid killing ourselves even though we have made enough nuclear bombs to destroy the planet multiple times over. $\endgroup$
    – Nelson
    Apr 27, 2023 at 0:46

1 Answer 1


Every crewed launch vehicle so far has had a self-destruct feature. I see no reason why SpaceX's Super Heavy will be any different. The same launch escape system that carries the crew away from a crippled rocket can carry it away from one where the self-destruct system has accidentally activated.

  • $\begingroup$ A crippled rocket which is out of control or at risk of explosion or other malfunction most of the time gives the capsule some time to escape. But doesn't the self-destruct cause a fuel-oxidizer explosion "instantly"? If there is i.e. an electrical short that energizes the wires that detonate the perforation charges there will be no time to get out of the blast radius? $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2023 at 8:21
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    $\begingroup$ @KevinKostlan, a crippled rocket is also one that is breaking up because of a rapid spin, or one where the first stage is exploding from a fire in the engine section. The self-destruct is no more violent than this: it ruptures the fuel tanks, but since the fuel and oxidizer aren't mixed, the result is more of a rapid fire than a fuel-air explosion. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Apr 26, 2023 at 9:15
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    $\begingroup$ Starship will not have a crew escape system space.stackexchange.com/q/46079/6944 $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2023 at 11:38
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    $\begingroup$ The problem with such statements is that Starship is both the crew vehicle and (part of) the launch vehicle. Like the STS Orbiter, and that one did not have an FTS as far as I know. $\endgroup$ Apr 26, 2023 at 14:45
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    $\begingroup$ @fyrepenguin, the SRBs had a destruct system on every launch, while the External Tank had one up through STS-78. $\endgroup$
    – Mark
    Apr 26, 2023 at 21:12

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