SpaceX rocket crashes into sea after launch of first spacecraft from Texas

SpaceX’s giant new rocket launched on its first test flight on Thursday, but failed minutes after rising from the launch pad.

Elon Musk’s company wanted to send the nearly 400-foot Starship rocket on a trip around the world from the southern tip of Texas near the Mexican border. It carried no people or satellites; Both the booster and the spaceship at the top should be thrown into the sea.

Crowds watched from South Padre Island, several miles from the Boca Chica Beach launch site, which was closed. Space’s first attempt to launch the rocket was aborted Monday due to a stuck valve in the rocket during refueling.

Until now: SpaceX is chafing the launch of Texas-based Starship’s first integrated test flight

Meet the SpaceX spacecraft: It is larger and more powerful than Artemis SLS. But will it fly?

Here’s what you should know about the launch.

What is the plan for Starship’s test flight?

  • After Starbase launches, Starship and Super Heavy will fly east across the Gulf of Mexico.

  • Once the booster’s job is done, it will separate and attempt a soft landing in the Gulf waters.

  • Starship will continue through the Florida Straits, complete near-orbit and, to ensure public safety, end with its own controlled water landing in the Pacific Ocean.

  • Though SpaceX is perhaps best known for landing its Falcon 9 boosters on land and drone ships, Starship and Super Heavy will be doomed to a wet grave for the mission. SpaceX will not attempt to recover any part of the spacecraft.

  • No customer payload is flying on this demonstration mission.

What is Starship?

Starship is SpaceX’s version of a next-generation launch system designed to deliver people, cargo and payloads to Earth orbit, the Moon and Mars.

Thanks to its reflective stainless steel outer shell, it is compared to something out of science fiction.

The vehicle consists of two parts: Super Heavy, a massive booster equipped with 33 Raptor engines that will lift Starship, a 54-meter-tall spacecraft capable of transporting people and cargo beyond low Earth orbit. It generates more thrust than the Apollo-era Saturn V rocket and NASA’s current Space Launch System.

To date, SpaceX is estimated to have spent at least several billion dollars on the Starship program.

Why is spaceship important?

Musk’s reason for striving for Starship and Super Heavy is related to his belief that humanity must become one multiplanetary spacefaring species Better sooner than later.

Musk sees Starship as the vehicle that will help SpaceX fulfill its vision of bringing human boots to Mars. He eventually wants hundreds of people to travel to the Red Planet in each spaceship.

NASA last year awarded SpaceX $2.9 billion specifically for Starship, which is earmarked as the lunar module for the agency’s Artemis program. If this architecture works, it will carry the next group of American astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface during the Artemis III mission. The astronauts will use NASA’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion capsule to reach lunar orbit before docking with Starship, which will be waiting for them.

“As part of the (initial) contract, SpaceX will also conduct an unmanned demonstration mission to the Moon prior to Artemis III,” NASA said late last year when awarding SpaceX a second $1.15 billion spacecraft development contract.

So far, the rocket has only completed short suborbital test flights. An orbital flight is an important step in preparation for this lunar mission, which is expected sometime before 2030.

Illustration of SpaceX's human spacecraft design that will carry NASA astronauts to the lunar surface during the Artemis mission.

Illustration of the SpaceX Starship Human Lander design that will take NASA astronauts to the lunar surface during the Artemis mission.

Has Starship ever launched?

Previous test flights, which often ended in explosions, only showed the Starship vehicle itself, but this time the combined 400-foot vehicle takes off from Texas.

SpaceX began building the first stainless steel prototype Starship, known as the “Starhopper,” in Texas, where it was successfully launched on one minute test flight at low altitude known as “Hop” in August 2019. A series of suborbital test flights were designed to stress systems and components to inform production of larger prototypes.

In December 2020, the much larger Starship Serial Number 8 prototype was the first to be successfully launched from Starbase. After launch, it sailed to a high-altitude suborbital apogee and appeared to hover for a moment. It then flipped back to Earth for a “belly flop” descent. Although it exploded just short of its landing site, all of SpaceX’s core test objectives for this flight were met.

In February 2021, the Starship Serial Number 9 prototype took off. The 165-foot vehicle took off for a brief test, automatically throttled its Raptor engines to about 33,000 feet. It then performed the “belly flop” using adjustable fins to set a trajectory back to the launch site. Although the test was successful SpaceXSN9’s primary goal was its inability to fully rotate from “belly down” to an upright position, causing it to explode on impact.

On SpaceX’s third high-altitude flight in March 2021, the serial number 10 spacecraft successfully completed all objectives and made the first landing of the next-generation vehicle. But minutes after landing, the spacecraft unexpectedly exploded.

The spacecraft, serial number 15, was the first to take off, land and remain intact. In May 2021, SN15 launched from a concrete slab and climbed to an altitude of 10 kilometers or 33,000 feet before using its “body” as an air brake to return to the launch site. Just before touchdown, it turned quickly and landed gently under the power of two Raptor engines – a first for the program.

Contribution: Associated Press

Contact and follow Jamie Groh at Tweet @AlteredJamie.

Contact Emre Kelly at Keep following him Twitter And Instagram at @EmreKelly.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: SpaceX launch video: spacecraft rocket crashes into the ocean

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