SpaceX’s Starship Launch Ends With Midair Explosion

SpaceX’s Starship launches from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, Thursday, April 20, 2023. The giant new rocket exploded minutes after blasting off on it first test flight and crashed into the Gulf of Mexico.InternationalIndiaAfricaMary ManleySpaceX’s Starship rocket, the world’s largest and most powerful rocket, is designed to transport crew and cargo into Earth’s orbit and space, and is the first vehicle of its kind intended to be fully reusable. Thursday’s launch of Starship was the second test launch following Monday’s which was halted due to a frozen valve. SpaceX’s Starship rocket malfunctioned on Thursday during its stage separation process and exploded; however, the test launch is being hailed as a success by the company and its CEO Elon Musk. The rocket, which launched from the coast of South Texas at 9:28 AM, Eastern Time (ET) was applauded by SpaceX employees during its first test flight as it made history by becoming the most powerful rocket to ever fly.Four minutes into its flight, when Starship had reached an altitude of about 24 miles, it began to spin out of control. The rocket, which is almost 400 feet tall, either failed to ignite —or never ignited in the first place— three of its 33 Raptor engines. Then, after about another minute and 20 seconds, three additional outer engines shut down.

The rocket then attempted to shut down its first stage engines during the separation process, but the rocket failed to separate and Starship exploded just a few seconds before the four minute mark.“At 8:33 a.m. CT, Starship successfully lifted off from the orbital launch pad for the first time,” SpaceX said on its webpage. “The vehicle cleared the pad and beach as Starship climbed to an apogee of ~39 km over the Gulf of Mexico — the highest of any Starship to-date.””The vehicle experienced multiple engines out during the flight test, lost altitude, and began to tumble. The flight termination system was commanded on both the booster and ship. As is standard procedure, the pad and surrounding area was cleared well in advance of the test, and we expect the road and beach near the pad to remain closed until tomorrow.”

Despite the rocket’s explosion, or “rapid unscheduled disassembly” SpaceX has hailed the launch as a success. Musk, the company’s founder, had predicted the rocket to succeed with just a 50% chance, adding that if Starship was able to get “far enough away from the launchpad before something goes wrong” he would consider it to be a success.

The rocket’s next flight will be determined by how much debris must be cleared at the site of the launch. For now, the public road and beach that are near the launch site have been closed until Friday.Wildlife conservationists groups including the American Bird Conservancy have pushed for SpaceX to test launch in another location, as an explosion could have negative effects on wetlands and the surrounding environment, Michael Parr, the group’s president, explained.Not long after the explosion, reports surfaced online that “particulates” had covered areas surrounding the test launch site.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will have to oversee SpaceX’s investigation into the rocket’s malfunction before it can be launched again.“A return to flight of the Starship/Super Heavy vehicle (will be) based on the FAA determining that any system, process, or procedure related to the mishap does not affect public safety,” said the FAA.


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