starship disintegration


Format 1: 202 x 132 cm / 79.5 x 52 in, edition of 6 + 2 AP
Format 2: 102 x 67 cm / 40.2 x 26.3 in, edition of 6 + 2 AP
Hybrid photography, archival pigment print, aludibond, diasec, custom-made aluminium frame

The largest spacecraft and rocket system in spaceflight history embarked on its first orbital test flight on the early morning of April 25, 2023. From the Starbase in South Texas, SpaceX's 120-meter-tall Starship system took off for the first time with the goal of circumnavigating the Earth. However, three of the thirty-three engines were damaged by flying debris during the launch, and shortly after, two more engines failed. After approximately three minutes of flight, the rocket lost control, deviated from its intended trajectory, and began tumbling at an altitude of 40 km, flying in random directions until it exploded four minutes into the flight. If everything had gone according to plan, the booster would have landed in the Gulf of Mexico three minutes after liftoff. The Starship would have continued its flight, orbiting the planet before crashing into the Pacific Ocean off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Despite the explosion, the spaceflight experts consider the mission a success. SpaceX follows an iterative design approach, continuously modifying the rocket system based on extensive testing and flight data analysis. Soon, the next version of the Starship spacecraft will be on the launch pad.

The artwork titled "starship disintegration" visualizes the four-minute flight of the Starship. Based on photographs the artist took during the launch, its composition consists of four different cloud formations formed by engine exhaust. The background depicts the gigantic smoke cloud that formed at the moment of liftoff. Two intersecting and diagonally running cloud bands draw the viewer's gaze from the bottom of the image into the pictorial space and dynamically lead it towards the upper edge of the image. In the upper left corner, against the backdrop of the darkening sky, the final explosion of the Starship is depicted. The image condenses the tremendous energy force and dynamics of the largest rocket launch in history. The spectacle that unfolded as a linear temporal process in the deep blue sky over the course of four minutes is compressed and layered in the image, creating a spatially condensed representation of the historic event.


Personally liable:
Michael Najjar

Design concept & coding: Matthias Hübner,
with support by Marco Land

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