SpaceX’s giant Starship vehicle could be ready for its second liftoff in a few months, according to company founder and CEO Elon Musk.
The 394-foot-tall (120 m) Starship – the largest and most powerful rocket ever built – launched on its maiden flight on April 20, taking off from Starbase, SpaceX’s site on the Gulf Coast of south Texas.
The purpose of the flight was to send Starship’s upper stage on a partial trip around Earth, with a targeted Pacific Ocean splashdown near Hawaii approximately 90 minutes after liftoff. However, the end came much sooner than that: Starship encountered several problems that prompted SpaceX to engage the vehicle’s Flight Termination System (FTS), which destroyed the vehicle four minutes after launch.
Nevertheless, SpaceX declared the test flight a success, noting that Starship took off well from the ground and eventually reached a maximum altitude of 24 miles (39 kilometers).
“Basically, the result was roughly what I expected, and maybe a little bit higher than my expectations,” Musk said in a post-mortem of the launch Saturday night (April 29) on Twitter Space.
Starship’s first stage boosters, known as the Super Heavy, caused some damage at the starbase on April 20, blasting a large crater beneath the site’s orbital launch mount along with its 33 Raptor engines. (Thirty Raptors, rather; the vehicle’s flight software shut down three engines immediately after detecting problems with them, Musk said Saturday.)
Liftoff also kicked up a huge cloud of debris, which rained down on the surrounding area.
“The debris is really just basically sand and rock, so it’s not toxic or anything,” Elon Musk said Saturday night. “It’s essentially like a sandstorm — basically a man-made sandstorm. But we don’t want that to happen again.”
And SpaceX is taking measures to prevent a recurrence, he said. The company plans to replace the eroded concrete under Starbase’s orbital launch mount with a reinforced steel plate that will spray water to combat the super heavy’s powerful exhaust.
The new system is “basically a water-jacketed sandwich of two layers of plate steel that’s also perforated on the upper side,” Musk said, comparing it to a “massive, super-strong steel shower head pointing up.” ” happened.”
The billionaire entrepreneur said the launch pad and the next Starship vehicle should be ready to launch in six to eight weeks. The next mission will have the same basic goal as the first – to take the Starship’s 165-foot-tall (50 m) upper stage around Earth, and bring it down near Hawaii.
However, technical preparation is only part of the picture. SpaceX will also have to secure another launch license for the US from the Federal Aviation Administration, which is currently conducting an investigation with SpaceX about what actually happened on the April 20 launch.
That probe likely looked into Starship’s FTS after the system did not function exactly as planned during the first launch: 40 seconds elapsed between issuing the self-destruct command and detonating over the Gulf of Mexico. , Musk said.
“The object with the longest lead is probably going to need a flight termination system,” Musk said during Saturday’s Twitter SpaceTalk. “It’s clearly something we want to make sure before we move forward with the next flight.”
”SpaceX should be ready to launch its giant Starship vehicle again just six to eight weeks from now, Elon Musk said”