In the wee hours of Thursday morning, SpaceX launched its towering Starship, the world’s most potent rocket, on a test flight that was uncrewed.
Unfortunately, a few minutes after leaving the launchpad, it exploded in midair, causing a terrible setback for SpaceX and its founder Elon Musk, who sees the rocket as the key to the company’s future.
This enormous rocket was created with the purpose of carrying cargo and crew to various destinations, including Earth’s orbit and beyond. What sets it apart from other rockets is that it’s fully reusable, making it a cost-effective solution.
However, during this particular test, the rocket carried nearly 10 million pounds of highly combustible fuel, which allowed it to fly for several minutes before sadly meeting its end in a ball of flame.
Despite the fact that the launch was the second attempt, with the first being canceled on Monday due to a frozen valve, Musk had warned reporters that the odds of success were low and that he would consider simply clearing the launch pad gantry and achieving separation of the first and second stages a success, given the vehicle’s size and complexity.
The rocket generates an astounding 16 million pounds of thrust and is the largest rocket ever built, with 33 engines on the booster and six engines on the upper stage of the ship.
It is intended to carry 100 tons to low-Earth orbit, and both stages are designed to be entirely reusable, with the aim of refurbishing and relaunching them via rocket-powered touchdowns.
Although Musk tweeted a positive message after the explosion, saying that SpaceX had learned a lot from the test flight and that there would be another one in a few months, the incident has now caused significant delays to plans such as NASA’s Artemis moon program, which is paying SpaceX billions to build a variant of the Starship upper stage to transport astronauts to the lunar surface.
Congrats @SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship!
Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months. pic.twitter.com/gswdFut1dK
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 20, 2023
The FAA granted SpaceX a launch license after more than 500 days of scrutiny, environmental impact assessments, public comment, and government-mandated mitigations to reduce the impact of the launch or a catastrophic failure on public health, property, and the coastal environment around the Boca Chica launch site.
The FAA official stated that the agency would investigate any such mishap to confirm that there were no public safety requirements that were not complied with and that a thorough investigation was underway to determine the root cause of the mishap.