June 2, 2023

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After a successful launch, the world’s largest rocket, Starship, explodes in flight

Space – This is definitely not the result SpaceX was hoping for. Elon Musk’s Starship, the company’s largest rocket built for missions to the Moon and Mars, exploded in flight shortly after its first test liftoff on Thursday, April 20. As you can see at the end of the video above.

In a giant fireball, the 120-meter-tall black and silver behemoth tore itself off the ground at around 8:30 a.m. local time (3:30 p.m. in France) to the cheers of SpaceX employees. The scene of this much-anticipated spectacle is SpaceX’s Starbase space station located in South Texas, USA.

The explosion didn’t mean a failure for billionaire Elon Musk’s company: the fact that the rocket was able to take off from its launch pad was already a huge success. This is why the SpaceX teams are loudly congratulating each other in pictures of the event. Elon Musk congratulates SpaceX despite explosion, promises new Starship test flight “In a few months”.

However, the cause of the explosion is still unknown. The purpose of this test flight was to collect as much data as possible to improve the following prototypes.

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The first attempt was canceled on Monday

On Monday, the first launch attempt was canceled in the final minutes of the countdown due to a technical glitch. “This is the first flight of the largest, most complex rocket”SpaceX boss Elon Musk on Sunday called for the test “ very dangerous”.

At 120 meters tall, Starship is taller than NASA’s new mega rocket, the SLS, which first blasted off in November (98 m), and the legendary Saturn V, the Apollo Lunar Program rocket (111 m). The starship’s liftoff thrust is twice as powerful as those of these two launchers—the strongest in the world.

It had never flown before in its complete configuration, with its highly powerful first stage, known as the Super Heavy, and equipped with no less than 33 engines. Only the vehicle’s second stage, the Starship spacecraft, extended its designation to the entire rocket and carried out sub-orbital tests (about 10 km altitude).

The lander of the Artemis 3 mission

He was selected by NASA as the lander for a modified version of the Artemis 3 mission, which was supposed to return astronauts to the lunar surface for the first time in more than half a century. Officially in 2025.

This Thursday, the flight plan is as follows: Three minutes after takeoff, the superheavy will separate and fall back into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. But this separation did not take place and the rocket continued to spin before exploding.

Had the separation been successful, the starship should have fired its six engines and continued its ascent to an altitude of over 150 km. After traveling a little less than one turn of the Earth for about an hour, it will fall back into the Pacific Ocean. But going through all these steps on the first test flight would have been a real feat.

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Rocket to break sector prices

Elon Musk wanted to lower expectations, saying that achieving orbit on the first try was unlikely. He was content to hope that the launch pad was not destroyed by the explosion of the super-heavy engines during ignition. “My biggest wish is that please (…) we’re a long way from the launch pad before something goes wrong”He had said.

Starship can carry 150 tonnes of cargo into orbit. By comparison, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket can only carry a little more than 22 tons into low Earth orbit. But the real innovation of the Starship is that it must be fully reusable — something Elon Musk thinks can be achieved.” Two or three years.

The idea of ​​a reusable launcher is Elon Musk’s grand strategy to keep costs down. Every starship flight only costs in the end” A few million” Dollars, he says. An imperative for the billionaire, he estimates that it would take hundreds of starship rockets for humans to become a multiplanetary species. Its ultimate goal is to establish an autonomous colony on Mars.

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