Latest SpaceX Launch Ends In Flames
24 April 23
This Thursday, the first test launch of SpaceX Starship rocket ended in a fiery explosion over the Gulf of Mexico. Despite the outcome, SpaceX does not consider its first test launch to be a failure.
Firstly, let’s talk about why this launch is so significant. SpaceX has already flown 162 missions using their Falcon rockets, all of which were a success. But the launch this Thursday was different, not just because of the outcome, but also the promise of the Starship rocket missions in the future.
The Starship rocket is a fully reusable most powerful launch vehicle ever constructed standing at the combined height of 120 meters and able to carry between 100 and 150 tons of payload. It consists of a booster called Super Heavy and spacecraft – Starship.
The Starship spacecraft is designed to reach Mars and is still at the early stages of testing. That is the main reason why so many eyes around the globe were fixated on the outcome of the Thursday’s launch. This is one of the first steps of many in the quest of humans reaching Mars.
So, what exactly happened? The spacecraft successfully lifted off the launch platform in Brownsville, Texas reaching maximum altitude of around 39 kilometers. During the ascend some of the 33 Raptor engines in the Super Heavy booster stopped working. The Starship spacecraft was supposed to separate from the Super Heavy booster once most of the fuel is used up. That did not happen.
Just four minutes into the launch the spacecraft started tumbling in the air, triggering the flight termination system that blew up the rocket, so it did not start careening off course.
Why is the launch not considered a failure then? Well, it is important to note that how SpaceX develops their space vehicles is very different from NASA. SpaceX works on the principal of trial and error, doing as much flight testing as possible, while NASA develops spacecrafts for sometimes decades, trying to make sure that the very first launch is a success.
SpaceX can afford this hands-on R&D method due to much lower costs of building the rocket than their counterpart NASA.
SpaceX considers just the lift-off from the launchpad to be a success for this first test launch.