SpaceX performs Incredible test flight of first fully-integrated Starship, mission ends with Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly

SpaceX performs Incredible test flight of first fully-integrated Starship, mission ends with Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly

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The path to return humanity to the Moon and launch the first astronauts to Mars is a challenging one. SpaceX founder Elon Musk is hell-bent on building the first colony on the Red Planet despite obstacles. He envisions a fleet of hundreds of Starships embarking on voyages to Mars and hopes that humanity could someday become a spacefaring civilization in order to "preserve the light of consciousness." Sounds like something straight out of a Sci-Fi film but SpaceX works around-the-clock to develop the spacecraft and technologies that will someday achieve making life multiplanetary. Musk has said on multiple occasions that "when something is important enough, you do it even when the odds are not in your favor" -- an attitude that has brought success to the company's endeavors.

SpaceX is developing Starship at the Starbase facility located at Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The one-of-a-kind methane-fueled stainless-steel vehicle is destined to become the world’s largest and most powerful rocket in history. SpaceX performed the long-awaited debut flight of the fully-integrated Starship Super Heavy launch vehicle on April 20. Thousands of space enthusiasts gathered at ‘Isla Blanca’ in South Padre Island, Texas, to watch SpaceX attempt to propel Starship to orbit. The Starbase launch site is visible across a ship channel. Spectators watched with excitement as the 394-foot-tall launch vehicle soared into the sunny sky at 8:33 a.m. Central Time with the mighty roar of 33 powerful Raptor V2 engines, capable of generating over 16.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff! Everyone cheered as the shiny silver rocket-ship reached a max altitude of around 39 kilometers above the ground. Then around 4 minutes after liftoff, the rocket failed to separate from the spacecraft and spinned out of control in the distant sky. The mission ended with a midair explosion – Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) – as SpaceX engineers call it. RUD happened above the Gulf of Mexico ocean away from people. SpaceX will survey the region to recover the debris. A TESMANIAN journalist had the opportunity to attend the launch event and shared a video of the incredible launch, linked below.

“As if the flight test was not exciting enough, Starship experienced a Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly before stage separation,” announced SpaceX. “Teams will continue to review data and work toward our next flight test. 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. Congratulations to the entire SpaceX team on an exciting first integrated flight test of Starship!” said the company. “Congrats SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship! Learned a lot for next test launch in a few months,” tweeted Musk.

The vehicles that performed this inaugural test flight are identified by as Super Heavy Booster 7 and Starship SN24. For SpaceX engineers, lifting off the Starbase launchpad was a success because it would have been worse if the vehicle had exploded on the ground and destroyed the launch tower which took nearly five months to build. The test flight comes after SpaceX scrubbed the first launch attempt to orbit on April 17 due to a frozen pressurization valve on the booster. SpaceX has not yet shared what specifically caused the explosion during today’s orbital flight attempt. UPDATE: "The vehicle experienced multiple engines out during the flight test, lost altitude, and began to tumble. The Flight Termination System was commanded on both the booster and ship. As is standard procedure, the pad and surrounding area was cleared well in advance of the test, and we expect the road and beach near the pad to remain closed until tomorrow," shared SpaceX on its website tonight. The Flight Termination System is designed to intentionally cause the vehicle to destroy itself, that is why it exploded in the sky. The system was triggered in midair to avoid the potential of the rocket steering off course and causing destruction on the ground.

The original flight plan was for Super Heavy Booster 7 to propel Starship SN24 to orbit and achieve a max altitude of around 233 kilometers (outer space begins at around 100 kilometers above the ground). The booster was supposed to separate and return to land in the Gulf of Mexico ocean while SN24 continued a one hour long flight in orbit around Earth. The mission would end with Starship SN24 reentering Earth’s atmosphere and landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. Even though things didn't go as planned, the 4-minute flight was enough for SpaceX to gather data to improve the next iteration of the launch vehicle.

NASA awarded a contract to SpaceX to develop a lunar-optimized Starship Human Landing System (HLS) to land Artemis astronauts on the Moon by 2025. “Congrats to SpaceX on Starship’s first integrated flight test!” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, “Every great achievement throughout history has demanded some level of calculated risk, because with great risk comes great reward. Looking forward to all that SpaceX learns, to the next flight test—and beyond,” he wrote via Twitter. “Thank you on behalf of the SpaceX team,” responded Musk.

VIDEO: SpaceX First Starship Orbital Flight Test Attempt

TESMANIAN VIDEO: SpaceX Starship flight test view from South Padre Island


》 Author's note: Thanks for reading Write your thoughts in the comment section below. If you have any story suggestions or feedback, feel free to Direct Message me on Twitter: Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo @JaneidyEve Read my most recent stories here: Recent News Stories 《   

All Featured Images Source: (photographer Evelyn J. Arevalo @JaneidyEve via Twitter)



About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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