A SpaceX Starship rocket explodes on its first test flight

The world’s largest rocket, the Starship, being developed by SpaceX for flights to the moon and Mars, exploded in mid-air shortly after its first takeoff, but Elon Musk hailed its teams and hailed a “fantastic” first test flight.

In a giant ball of fire, this black and silver giant 120 meters high tore itself from the ground at about 08:30 local time at the Starbase space base, located in the southernmost part of Texas, in the United States, to cries of joy. A SpaceX employee.

But four minutes after liftoff, the SpaceX crews deliberately blew up the entire rocket.

The Starship spacecraft, which makes up the rocket’s second stage, was scheduled to separate from the launch pad three minutes later, but that separation did not happen.

“The vehicle experienced multiple engine failures during the test flight, lost altitude and began descending,” SpaceX said. “The kill-in-flight system was triggered on both the launch vehicle and the vehicle,” the company added.

Such a procedure is usual in the event that a falling flying object could pose a danger.

“calculated risk”

Despite this outburst, the SpaceX teams welcome the test.

“We were able to get off the launch pad, and that, honestly, was everything we could have hoped for,” SpaceX engineer Kate Tice said during the company’s live video.

The purpose of this test was to collect as much data as possible to improve the next prototypes.

Elon Musk tweeted: “We learned a lot for the upcoming test in a few months.”

The spacecraft is larger than NASA’s massive new SLS rocket (98 meters), which first lifted off in November, and the legendary Saturn V, the Apollo moon rocket (111 meters).

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The Starship’s thrust is also twice that of these two launchers – making it the most powerful in the world.

It has never flown before in its full configuration, with its super-powerful first stage, called Super Heavy and equipped with no fewer than 33 engines.

Only the second stage of the craft, the Starship spacecraft that gives its name to the entire rocket, has conducted suborbital tests (at an altitude of about 10 km).

It was he who was chosen by NASA to become, in a modified version, the probe for the Artemis 3 mission, which should return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in more than half a century. Officially in 2025.

NASA chief Bill Nelson paid tribute to SpaceX. “Every great achievement in history requires a certain level of calculated risk,” he wrote on Twitter, saying he was “looking forward to the next test.”

Expected explosion

If the planned separation is successful 3 minutes after liftoff, the spacecraft will have to turn on its six engines and continue its ascent on its own, up to an altitude of more than 150 kilometers, then return to the Pacific Ocean after a little less than a circumnavigation of the Earth.

But Elon Musk wanted to temper expectations, saying that reaching orbit on the first try was unlikely.

He was content with hoping that the launch pad would not be destroyed by the Super Heavy engines exploding on ignition.

On Monday, the first launch attempt was canceled in the final minutes of the countdown, due to a technical problem.

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Slanted prices

The rocket already has customers: the first manned flight of the Starship will take place with the American billionaire Jared Isaacman.

The spacecraft must be able to carry up to 150 tons of cargo into orbit.

But its real innovation is that it has to be completely reusable.

In the end, the Super Heavy will have to return to land against its launch tower and the Starship will have to return to land with the retrorocket. After several tests in 2020 and 2021, a successful Phase 1 prototype has finally arrived.

The idea of ​​a reusable launcher, Elon Musk’s grand strategy, is to lower prices, bringing them down to “a few million” dollars per flight, he says.

An absolute necessity for the billionaire, who estimates that humans would need hundreds of starship rockets to have a chance at becoming a multi-planetary species. Its ultimate goal is to establish an independent colony on Mars.

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