Just four minutes into its maiden test flight on Thursday, SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded.
But even as late-night hosts and others joked about the fiery debris falling from the sky, space experts and observers cheered on the world’s most powerful rocket blast off.
“Despite the mission ending in an ‘unplanned rapid disassembly’ as the company refers to the outcome, the wider space community views the launch as a success, and rightly so in our view,” the analyst wrote. from Bank of America Ronald Epstein in a note on Friday.
Several minutes after the unmanned spacecraft launched at 8:33 a.m. CT in Boca Chica Beach, Texas, the spacecraft failed to disconnect from the Super Heavy rocket, several of its Raptor engines stopped firing and the vehicle began to spin in the air before exploding. .
Nonetheless, the launch did what it set out to do, Epstein said, “and more.”
The craft climbed about 24 miles before exploding. And while it didn’t reach its space goal, it did pass the point of maximum mechanical stress, the analyst noted.
“All of this was done in the first attempt to launch the most powerful rocket ever built,” Epstein pointed out.
The launch was hailed by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, who tweeted that “every great achievement in history has demanded some level of calculated risk”.
SpaceX looks up
Starship’s ultimate goals are to deliver satellites into Earth orbit, travel to the Moon, and make interplanetary travel to Mars a reality.
There have been a series of test launches that have met with varying degrees of success. The launch which took place on Thursday was originally scheduled to take place on Monday, but was postponed due to a valve issue.
With 17 million pounds of thrust, Starship’s Super Heavy rocket produces twice the thrust of the next most powerful launch vehicle, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS). It is powered by cooled liquid methane and liquid oxygen. It is also remarkably tall, reaching a height of 394 feet.
This scale and payload capacity could reduce the obstacles to putting satellites into low Earth orbit.
According to Epstein, a Starship launch could potentially carry 4,300 small satellites into space, more than triple the number of satellites launched in 2020. Although finding enough satellites ready to launch at once makes that figure unlikely to soon, Starship is still expected. to reduce industry costs.
SpaceX has bigger ambitions for Starship: ferrying people to Mars. To that end, engineers are already hard at work analyzing Thursday’s launch.
“With a test like this, success comes from what we learn, and today’s test will help us improve Starship’s reliability as SpaceX seeks to make life multi-planetary,” SpaceX tweeted.
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