Elon Musk’s SpaceX postpones first test flight of world’s biggest rocket Starship

The liftoff of the next-generation and the world’s biggest rocket was called off just minutes before the scheduled launch time

Updated - April 17, 2023 09:30 pm IST

Published - April 17, 2023 07:01 pm IST

SpaceX Starship rocket. Photo: Twitter/@SpaceX

SpaceX Starship rocket. Photo: Twitter/@SpaceX

Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has postponed the debut launch of the most powerful rocket ever built, Starship. The uncrewed flight was scheduled to lift off from Boca Chica in Texas at 08:20 local time (14:20 BST).

The liftoff of the next-generation and the world’s biggest rocket, which was designed to send astronauts to Moon and Mars was called off just minutes before the scheduled launch time after a pressurant valve seemed to be frozen in the booster stage, Elon Musk said in a tweet.

While the launch will be delayed by at least 48 hours, SpaceX announced that the team is ‘working towards the next available opportunity’ to launch the rocket.

"It's a very risky flight," Mr. Musk earlier said in a live event on Twitter Spaces on April 16. "It's the first launch of a very complicated, gigantic rocket.

"There's a million ways this rocket could fail," he added. "We're going to be very careful and if we see anything that gives us concern, we'll postpone."

Mr. Musk said he wanted to "set expectations low" because "probably tomorrow will not be successful -- if by successful one means reaching orbit."

The U.S. space agency NASA has picked the Starship spacecraft to ferry astronauts to the Moon in late 2025 — a mission known as Artemis III — for the first time since the Apollo program ended in 1972.

Starship consists of a 164-foot (50-metre) tall spacecraft designed to carry crew and cargo that sits atop a 230-foot tall first-stage Super Heavy booster rocket.

Also Read: SpaceX set to launch next International Space Station crew for NASA

Collectively referred to as Starship, the spacecraft and the Super Heavy rocket have never flown in combination together, although there have been several sub-orbital test flights of the spacecraft alone.

SpaceX conducted a successful test-firing of the 33 Raptor engines on the first-stage booster of Starship in February.

The Super Heavy booster was anchored to the ground during the test-firing, called a static fire, to prevent it from lifting off.

NASA will take astronauts to lunar orbit itself in November 2024 using its own heavy rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which has been in development for more than a decade.

Also Read: SpaceX test-fires Starship booster in milestone for debut orbital launch

Starship is both bigger and more powerful than SLS.

It generates 17 million pounds of thrust, more than twice that of the Saturn V rockets used to send Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

SpaceX foresees eventually putting a Starship into orbit, and then refueling it with another Starship so it can continue on a journey to Mars or beyond.

Mr. Musk said the goal is to make Starship reusable and bring down the price to a few million dollars per flight.

"In the long run — long run meaning, I don't know, two or three years — we should achieve full and rapid reusability," he said.

The eventual objective is to establish bases on the Moon and Mars and put humans on the "path to being a multi-planet civilization," Mr. Musk said.

"We are at this brief moment in civilization where it is possible to become a multi-planet species," he said. "That's our goal. I think we've got a chance.".

(with AFP inputs)

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