A VOIR SpaceXs Starship rocket explodes in flight Le

[À VOIR] SpaceX’s Starship rocket explodes in flight – Le Journal de Montréal

The world’s largest rocket, Starship, developed by SpaceX for trips to the Moon and Mars, exploded in mid-air shortly after launch, but this first test flight is already a huge success for the company.

In a gigantic fireball, this 120-meter-tall black and silver behemoth tore itself off the ground at around 8:30 a.m. local time to cheers from SpaceX employees.

This highly anticipated spectacle took place at SpaceX’s Starbase space facility in far south Texas, USA.

The cause of the explosion is not yet known. The purpose of this test flight was to collect as much data as possible to improve the following prototypes.

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

“This is the first flight of a huge, very complex rocket,” said SpaceX boss Elon Musk on Sunday, calling the test “very risky”.

At 120 meters, Starship is larger than both NASA’s new SLS megarocket (98 m), which launched for the first time in November, and the legendary Saturn V, the rocket used in the Apollo lunar program (111 m).

The spacecraft’s launch thrust is also about twice that of those two launch vehicles – making it the most powerful in the world.

It had never flown before in its full configuration, with its super-powerful first stage, dubbed the Super Heavy, fitted with no fewer than 33 engines.

Only the vehicle’s second stage, the Starship spacecraft, which gives its name to the entire rocket, had performed suborbital tests (at an altitude of about 10 km).

It was he who was selected by NASA to be in a modified version of the lander of the Artemis 3 mission, which must officially bring astronauts back to the lunar surface in 2025 for the first time in more than half a century.

On Thursday, the flight plan was as follows: Approximately three minutes after takeoff, Super Heavy was scheduled to break loose and fall back into Gulf of Mexico waters. But this separation did not take place, the rocket continued to spin before exploding.

If the separation had been successful, the Starship would have to start its six engines and continue its ascent to an altitude of more than 150 km on its own. After making a little less than one rotation of the earth for about an hour, it should fall back into the Pacific Ocean.

But to go through all these steps on the first test flight would have been a real feat.

Wanting to tone down expectations, Elon Musk said it was unlikely to reach orbit on the first try.

He’d been content to hope that the launch pad hadn’t been destroyed by the explosion of Super Heavy’s engines upon ignition.

“My biggest wish is that we please (…) get far from the launch pad before anything goes wrong,” he said.

The rocket already has customers: Starship’s first manned flight is said to be with American billionaire Jared Isaacman.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa and American Dennis Tito (the first space tourist in history) have also announced plans to travel around the moon.

The spacecraft must be able to carry up to 150 tons of cargo into orbit. For comparison, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket can only carry a little over 22 tons in low Earth orbit.

But Starship’s real innovation is that it needs to be fully reusable — something Elon Musk says is achievable in “two or three years.”

For this first test, no attempt should be made to recover either stage of the rocket. But eventually, Super Heavy must come back and rest at his launch tower, which is equipped with two arms to immobilize him.

The Starship spaceship must return to earth with retro rockets. This maneuver had been attempted several times in 2020 and 2021. After several explosions on landing, a prototype finally landed successfully.

The idea of ​​a reusable launcher, Elon Musk’s grand strategy, is to lower prices. Each Starship flight can only end up costing “a few million” dollars, he claims.

An imperative for the billionaire, who estimates that humans will need hundreds of Starship rockets to have any chance of becoming a multiplanetary species. His ultimate goal is to establish an autonomous colony on Mars.