Today at 15:32 SpaceX’s new giant rocket Starship was launched from the Starbase complex at Boca Chica on the border with Mexico in East Texas. The launch was without payload and intended only for learning and collecting data. The objective was to test the launch of the launch vehicle, weightless operation, as well as return and landing, but although the launch went well, the second stage failed to separate, the rocket began to rotate and exploded.
As the test included both the new Super Heavy launch vehicle and the new, untested Starship spacecraft, Elon Musk considered the possibilities of error, failure or RUD as “relatively high”. RUD is an acronym that stands for Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly – better known as “explosion” to laymen.
The SpaceX Starship system consists of two stages of nine metres in diameter and 120 metres tall. In comparison, the new Space Launch System for NASA is 98 metres, while the Apollo system towered 112 metres in the air. Once developed, Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch system, with a lifting capacity of up to 150 tonnes for reuse, and 250 tonnes for single use.
Starship consists of two parts: The top is the new reusable spacecraft Starship, which forms a separate rocket stage at a height of 50 metres. In comparison, the space shuttle was 56 metres long. Starship is designed to lift crew and payload into orbit, to the moon, Mars and beyond. According to SpaceX, the craft is also designed to travel from A to B anywhere in the world in an hour or less if mom is terribly rich and in a terrible hurry.
The new launch vehicle Falcon Heavy is the first stage of the Starship system. This stage is 69 metres high and differs greatly from NASA’s SLS system by having as many as 33 rocket engines. Like other launch vehicles from SpaceX, the Super Heavy is also designed for reuse through controlled entry into the atmosphere with a landing back on the launch platform.
Starship and the launch vehicle Super Heavy use Raptor engines powered by a mixture of liquid methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX). Falcon Heavy has a total of 33 engines for propulsion, where 13 are gathered in the middle of the rocket, and 20 surround the outer edge. The Starship stage itself has six engines, three of which are regular Raptor, and three are Raptor Vacuum adapted for use outside the atmosphere.
SpaceX is a private space rocket company founded by Elon Musk in 2002, and aims to lower the costs of space travel. The company estimates that the development of the reusable launch system has cost around $500 billion, but if everything goes according to plan, it is hoped that the price per kilogram of cargo into orbit will drop from the space shuttle’s $65,400 to just ten dollars.
SpaceX is the world’s leading private company for launching payloads into space, and is also behind the satellite-based internet system Starlink with over 2,000 small satellites in orbit. The company is headquartered in Hawtohorne, California, with the Starlink launch base located in Texas. SpaceX has produced the rockets Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy and the spacecraft Dragon. It has an extensive collaboration with NASA and ESA, particularly related to the space station ISS.