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Starship exploded four minutes after taking off today in Texas

Elon Musk's SpaceX Starship explodes minutes after test launch of world's biggest rocket

Starship did not separate correctly from its second stage and exploded.

LAST UPDATE | 20 Apr 2023

SPACEX’S MOST POWERFUL rocket ever exploded nearly four minutes after its delayed first blast-off in Texas.

The rocket, Starship, did not separate correctly from it’s second stage, which holds the rocket’s boosters, and experienced “a rapid unscheduled disassembly”.

The rocket was due to take off at 8.28am Central time (2.28pm Irish time) today but the countdown was stopped and held at 40 seconds due to multiple final-pressurisation issues.

Starship later successfully took off and at 8.34am local time (2.34pm Irish time) after the issues were resolved.

The hosts of the company’s broadcast said SpaceX will be working with local authorities to correctly recover Starship and it’s parts.

Quality Systems Engineering Manager Kate Tice, and co-host Spacecraft operator Siva Bharadvaj, said that today’s launch was to collect data which “helps inform and improve the future versions of Starship”.

Bharadvaj said that Starship will help SpaceX’s future missions to the Moon by taking vehicles and other important cargo for when the company plans to create a control-base there.

SPACEXROCKET Starship moments after take off today in Texas SpaceX on YouTube SpaceX on YouTube

The rocket is 120 metres tall and is fully reusable according to Quality Systems Engineering Manager and broadcast host for the company, Kate Tice.

Tice said that the rocket is the “worlds most powerful launch vehicle” and is twice the size of NASA’s Saturn rockets. 

The rocket is set to complete missions to the “Moon and beyond” and make many trips, with both people and cargo, to install Elon Musk’s Starlink services in the future, a public internet service which he provided to Ukraine at the beginning of the invasion.

The proposed plan is for the Starship to help SpaceX bring people to Mars, something which the company has been attempting to do for a number of years.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk, who has sought to play down expectations for the risk-laden inaugural test flight, cast some doubt on whether the launch will actually go ahead today.

“The team is working around the clock on many issues,” Musk tweeted late Tuesday. “Maybe 4/20, maybe not.”

The US space agency Nasa has picked the Starship spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the Moon in late 2025 – a mission known as Artemis III – for the first time since the Apollo program ended in 1972.

Starship consists of a 164-foot tall spacecraft designed to carry crew and cargo that sits atop a 230-foot tall first-stage Super Heavy booster rocket.

Monday’s launch was scrubbed because of a frozen pressure valve on the Super Heavy booster and SpaceX needed to delay another try for 48 hours to recycle the liquid methane and liquid oxygen that fuels the rocket.

Musk had warned ahead of the launch that delays and technical issues were likely.

“It’s a very risky flight,” he said. “It’s the first launch of a very complicated, gigantic rocket.

“There’s a million ways this rocket could fail,” Musk said. “We’re going to be very careful and if we see anything that gives us concern, we’ll postpone.”

‘Multi-planet species’

NASA will take astronauts to lunar orbit itself in November 2024 using its own heavy rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which has been in development for more than a decade.

Starship is both bigger and more powerful than SLS and capable of lifting a payload of more than 100 metric tonnes into orbit.

It generates 17 million pounds of thrust, more than twice that of the Saturn V rockets used to send Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

SpaceX foresees eventually putting a Starship into orbit, and then refueling it with another Starship so it can continue on a journey to Mars or beyond.

Musk said the goal is to make Starship reusable and bring down the price to a few million dollars per flight.

“In the long run – long run meaning, I don’t know, two or three years – we should achieve full and rapid reusability,” he said.

The eventual objective is to establish bases on the Moon and Mars and put humans on the “path to being a multi-planet civilization,” Musk said.

“We are at this brief moment in civilization where it is possible to become a multi-planet species,” he said. “That’s our goal. I think we’ve got a chance.”

With additional reporting from © AFP 2023

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