Elon Musk’s Starship rocket booster explodes after launch – but still a ‘success’

Elon Musk’s Starship rocket booster explodes after launch – but still a ‘success’

The Starship rocket launched at 1pm UK time in Texas, USA

Elon Musk’s mammoth new rocket – named Starship – has been launched from the US.

The rocket’s Super Heavy booster exploded shortly after lift-off – but the rocket itself remains intact and the mission is still being considered a ‘success’.

It has experienced what engineers have called a ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly’ during ascent, which effectively means it was not meant to happen.

The space aircraft lifted off from the coastal town of Boca Chica, Texas at 7am local time (1pm UK time).

Standing at 120m tall, Starship is the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built.

Its maiden voyage in April ended in dramatic fashion when it lost control and exploded four minutes after launching.

Debris from the rocket spewed out and scattered into the Gulf of Mexico waters.

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web
browser that
supports HTML5

The rocket is on its second test voyage

Engineers at Musk’s SpaceX company have since made ‘more than a thousand’ changes to Starship in an attempt to improve its reliability.

Like SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets, the vertical take-off and landing Starship system is designed to be fully reusable.

Somewhat confusingly named, it is comprised of two parts – Starship and the Super Heavy booster.

The first stage, the Super Heavy booster, provides the initial thrust for liftoff from 33 Raptor engines.

The second stage, Starship, is designed to carry cargo and crew into space. It will also deliver Nasa’s Artemis pilots to the lunar surface – the Super Heavy booster will not be needed to take-off again because of the lower gravity on the Moon.

However, Nasa’s 2025 timeline for sending humans back to the Moon looked in jeopardy following April’s failed Starship test.

Starship is the largest rocket ever launched (Picture: Metro.co.uk)

The aim was to launch the entire system, with Starship achieving orbit for around 90 minutes, and the Super Heavy returning to the Gulf of Mexico, dropping into the sea in a proof of concept mission rather than returning to the launch pad.

However, around three minutes after launch, the two stages failed to separate and Starship fell into a tail spin, forcing ground control to detonate the spacecraft – or, as SpaceX’s principal integration engineer John Insprucker called it, a ‘rapid unscheduled disassembly’.

Nevertheless, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk called the test a success, reining in expectations beforehand that the main hope was for Starship to clear the tower without blowing up the launchpad.

Unfortunately it didn’t, instead blasting a hole in it which showered the area and neighbouring  Lower Rio Grand Valley National Wildlife Refuge with debris – prompting environmental groups to sue the Federal Aviation Authority for failing to consider the environment before granting SpaceX a licence to launch.

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web
browser that
supports HTML5

It took seven months for the company to make the more than 1,000 modifications after the launch and to receive a new licence.

Of course, the April explosion was far from the first Starship suffered.

The journey began with the small ‘Spacehopper’ prototype, which hovered just 120m off the ground before landing.

Later iterations didn’t fare so well, with two vehicles, SN8 and SN9, landing too quickly and exploding on impact. SN10 appeared to land safely but exploded shortly after due to a fuel leak caused by the landing.

SN11 broke up on its descent.

SpaceX is nothing if not determined though, and with its lofty ambitions of putting humans on Mars, the journey continues.

MORE : Starship flew for four minutes then exploded – is that a success?

MORE : Elon Musk learning from his mistakes ahead of next Starship launch

MORE : SpaceX’s Starship rocket explodes shortly after take-off

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *