Starship, the world’s largest rocket, roared from a launchpad in southern Texas and exploded just before reaching space. This was the first major test of the biggest rocket ever built. Starship and its booster cleared a launch pad, soared up to 39 km high, and then spun out of control, exploding four minutes after takeoff. John Insprucker said, “Clearly, this is no nominal situation” on a live webcast.

The fact that the rocket was able to get off the launchpad, with up to 33 engines firing at the same time, is a significant step above what SpaceX had been able do to date with its most ambitious of rockets. Insprucker later said that “Starship was an impressive end to a truly incredible experiment.”

may enable new forms of planetary and astrophysics. This first test flight was conducted without a crew.

Most powerful rocket

Starship is almost twice as powerful than NASA’s deep-space rocket Space Launch System (SLS), which flew for first time in November. Starship has only flown a few low-altitude tests before today. These were conducted above SpaceX’s Boca Chica spaceport in Texas. Today’s mission was to travel around the globe and reach space, then splash down into the ocean near Hawaii.

Laura Forczyk is the executive director of Astralytical in Atlanta, Georgia, a space consultancy company. She says that if SpaceX can demonstrate that Starship will reach orbit that it will “be significant for what will come afterwards”.

SpaceX is interested in colonizing Mars using Starship. NASA plans to use Starship to put astronauts on Earth’s surface in the next few years, as part of Artemis missions. Scientists are also imagining how to use Starship’s immense size to transport big telescopes, or planet missions into deep space.

“We are really excited about the possibility of enabling science through Starship,” Julianna Scheiman said, SpaceX director of NASA satellite mission, on 18 April, at the Space Symposium, in Colorado Springs.

Reusable Craft

Starship is a 120-metre tall metal cylinder that looks like it’s stacked on top of its Super Heavy rocket booster. The spacecraft can transport up to 150 tons of equipment and is designed to be reusable. SpaceX wants to reuse and recover its parts in order to reduce the cost of space travel.

Jennifer Heldmann is a NASA Ames Research Center planetary scientist in Moffett Field in California. She says, “We’ve always been constrained by mass, cost, and volume in space flight.” Starship is a solution to all these constraints.

NASA’s space shuttle fleet, which made 135 flights to low Earth orbit between 1981 and 2011 was supposed to allow frequent access to the space. NASA retired the shuttle to develop the SLS, a more powerful spacecraft that can travel further from Earth.

SpaceX already has smaller, partially-reusable rockets such as the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy, which are used to launch satellites on behalf of governments, businesses, and other customers. Starship will be used to launch even larger objects such as its next-generation Starlink satellites. critics have accused them of interfering in night sky observations .

Rocket Challenges

Forczyk believes it’s still too early to know if SpaceX will be able to deliver on its promise of regularly flying Starship at a low cost. Starship is a good choice because it can be done with smaller rockets and NASA supports it as part of their Moon exploration program.

As today’s test flight demonstrated, it is still difficult to develop a new rocket. SpaceX has built a few other Starships and will test one more in the near term. Forczyk believes that we could see significant progress in this year. “Or not.”


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