The billionaire’s space company may attempt a new orbital flight of Starship, the rocket with which Musk wants to conquer Mars, by the end of June.
Elon Musk did not wait long to regain control of the narrative.
Less than 48 hours after the explosion of Starship, the most powerful rocket in the world, the billionaire has his eyes fixed on a second attempt.
Starship, the reusable rocket with which Musk promised to conquer Mars and to revisit the Moon, exploded during its first orbital flight on Apr. 20.
This explosion was a real shock for the aerospace industry and space conquest lovers. The giant Starship rocket exploded in the air over Texas, a few minutes after taking off. According to SpaceX, this was due to a “rapid unscheduled disassembly” before stage separation. It was the first test flight, without passengers, of this vehicle developed by SpaceX.
The flight plan was as follows: approximately three minutes after takeoff, Super Heavy was to break away and fall back into the Gulf of Mexico.
The Starship rocket would then turn on its six engines and continue its ascent alone, up to an altitude of more than 150 km. After having made a little less than a full orbit around the Earth for about an hour, it would fall back into the Pacific Ocean. But nothing went as planned.
New Orbital Flight in 1 to 2 Months
At 120 meters, Starship is longer than both NASA’s new mega-rocket, SLS (98 m), which first blasted off in November, and the legendary Saturn V, the Apollo lunar program rocket (111 m).
The black and silver behemoth had never flown in its full configuration before, with its super-powerful first stage, called Super Heavy and equipped with no less than 33 engines.
Only the second stage of the vehicle, the Starship spacecraft which by extension gives its name to the entire rocket, had carried out suborbital tests (at an altitude of around 10 km). It has been chosen by NASA to become, in a modified version, the lander of the Artemis 3 mission, which will bring astronauts back to the lunar surface for the first time in more than half a century, officially in 2025.
As a result, the stakes are enormous. On Starship also rests the mission that Musk has set himself to enable humans to live on Mars in the coming years.
Musk didn’t wait long to bounce back. He has thus just announced that SpaceX will attempt a new Starship orbital flight in two months at the latest, which means no later than the third week of June.
He made the announcement after a post on Twitter from journalist Eric Berger saying that “the damage in Boca Chica at the Starbase launch site looks pretty serious, but a former senior SpaceXer from there says he believes the pad can be repaired; and a (water-cooled?) flame diverter installed in 4 to 6 months. Just passing on what I was told.”
“3 months ago, we started building a massive water-cooled, steel plate to go under the launch mount,” the tech mogul said on Apr. 21, just 24 hours after the explosion. “Wasn’t ready in time & we wrongly thought, based on static fire data, that Fondag would make it through 1 launch.”
“Looks like we can be ready to launch again in 1 to 2 months,” he added without providing an exact date.
Aware that this schedule is hyper ambitious, Musk then explained, on Apr. 22, that the engines may have caused unexpected damage.
“Still early in analysis, but the force of the engines when they throttled up may have shattered the concrete, rather than simply eroding it,” he argued. “The engines were only at half thrust for the static fire test.”
The billionaire explained that Starship “is the only way for us to become a multiplanet civilization.”
The Starship explosion is not a complete failure for SpaceX, experts say. The fact that the rocket succeeded in taking off from its launch pad is already a huge achievement. The purpose of the flight, say these experts, was above all to collect as much data as possible to improve the following prototypes and that is what happened, because the rocket was able to take off.
The orbital launch of Starship is viewed as a leap forward for humanity, as a stepping stone for reaching the Moon, then Mars, while carrying tons of cargo. Starship is designed to quickly replace the entire current range of SpaceX launchers and separate freight and manned transport systems. These are the Falcon Heavy and the Falcon 9, used for launching satellites, resupplying the International Space Station, and rotating crews.