With an impressive budget of around $2 billion, SpaceX is dedicated to advancing the development of its Starship rocket, according to Elon Musk. After the recent launch on April 20th, Musk is confident that the next flight will successfully achieve orbit, without requiring any extra financial support. He is optimistic about the program’s progress and foresees an 80% probability of reaching orbit this year and a definite 100% chance within the next 12 months.
The first launch of SpaceX’s Starship rocket experienced some setbacks, despite achieving some important milestones. During liftoff, three of the Raptor engines failed to ignite, and the rocket veered off course as it ascended. Shortly after, communication was lost with one engine, causing damage to the heat shield of other engines. The rocket also lost its maneuverability around 85 seconds after launch. To avoid similar issues in the next launch, SpaceX needs to fix the Autonomous Flight Termination System, which took 40 seconds to activate.
The company intends to create more models of its Starship rocket and is targeting another launch attempt to reach space in a matter of months. Elon Musk revealed that the rocket’s impressive feat was its resilience during the “Max Q” stage, where it experienced the most significant atmospheric pressure. Going forward, SpaceX has incorporated numerous enhancements into subsequent prototypes, but Musk emphasized the need to avoid losing thrust vector control in the next launch.
Photos taken after the launch revealed that debris made of concrete and metal was thrown thousands of feet away and formed a dust and pulverized concrete cloud that spread up to 6.5 miles from the launch site. Musk stated that SpaceX would replace some of the propellant tanks near the launchpad and implement a plan to put steel plates under the launch tower for the next Starship rocket. Though environmental activists and researchers expressed concerns about the cloud of dust and pulverized concrete created during the launch, Musk claimed that the debris was not hazardous. However, he also said that SpaceX would strive to avoid a repeat of the situation.
To reduce the five-second launch time, SpaceX needs to speed up the process of starting the 33 Raptor engines and getting off the launch pad quickly. Their goal is to launch again in six to eight weeks. However, the main challenge will be requalifying the AFTS, which took too long to detonate and destroy the rocket.
SpaceX’s first high-altitude test flight of its Starship rocket prototype was a mix of success and setbacks. Although the rocket experienced some technical difficulties during the launch, the company managed to achieve some significant milestones. With Elon Musk’s vision and SpaceX’s determination to push the limits of space exploration, the future of Starship seems promising. The company has learned valuable lessons from the recent launch, and they are already planning improvements for future prototypes. As SpaceX continues to refine its Starship program, the world watches with anticipation for the day when space travel becomes more accessible and affordable.