I've noticed that no one has talked about this, making me think that maybe it's normal or expected as a way to veer off the launch pad to protect stage 0 equipment. However, no matter how many times I see it, it still doesn't look right to me. Why does Starship tilt to one side immediately after lifting off?

Starship November 18, 2023

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    $\begingroup$ @Woody - the pitchover was expected in that direction but most rockets seem to start their pitchover higher up. In this case the Starship pitchover started almost immediately after liftoff while it was still beside the tower. It did something similar in April, that launch of course had engine problems so some people wondered if they just got lucky that it didn't veer toward the tower. But since it did it again on this launch it was almost certainly intentional, possibly due to aerodynamics. I don't think SpaceX has said anything about it thus the questions about it since it is so noticeable. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2023 at 18:11
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    $\begingroup$ @StevePemberton ... Is there any reason not to start pitching early? In an idealized, atmosphere-free launch, the gravity turn would start at lift-off. It looks like that's what Starship is doing. This would minimize steering thrust compared with performing pitch-over later. $\endgroup$
    – Woody
    Nov 25, 2023 at 18:40
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    $\begingroup$ This is just speculation, but it's important to note that this launch was aiming to put Starship on a suborbital trajectory rather than an orbital one. The reason orbital launches don't pitch over so strongly right after leaving the pad is that by flying vertical for a bit, they can reduce atmospheric losses and then gain "horizontal" velocity in thinner air. $\endgroup$
    – Dragongeek
    Nov 25, 2023 at 18:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Woody - Atlas V and Delta IV wait until just after they have cleared the tower. Maybe SpaceX feels they have enough control of the rocket to start it sooner. After all they do plan to land it back on the tower eventually. Other rockets wait a little longer. Probably multiple factors involved. $\endgroup$ Nov 25, 2023 at 19:03
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    $\begingroup$ I suspect that they did it on purpose to make sure that Starship didn’t crash or fly into the tower. The last thing SpaceX wants is to have starship flying into the launch tower and exploding. $\endgroup$ Nov 27, 2023 at 13:04

1 Answer 1


It appears to be a yaw maneuver (tilt) designed to avoid impact with the Mechazilla tower. I can't find any explanation in SpaceX public information, but it's consistent with the yaw maneuver the Saturn V used during takeoff. It happens early precisely to quickly move Starship/SuperHeavy away from the tower to minimise the risk of impact.

See my answer here.

I also have to highlight @StevePemberton contributing the above picture to my answer and pointing out the relationship between these two questions. Thanks Steve.


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