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Last week, SpaceX’s Starship exploded over the Gulf of Mexico during its debut flight. Was this explosion expected, and what is being done now to give the next one a higher chance of success? Read on below to find out.
On Thursday, April 20, space flight company SpaceX attempted the first launch into space of their Starship rocket. The rocket flew slowly up for four minutes, before exploding just over the Gulf of Mexico.
Starship is the rocket that SpaceX plans to use to eventually make the first-ever manned flight to Mars, but it could take years of iteration for the rocket to be fully ready. At 120 meters in height, Starship will, when successful, be the largest rocket ever successfully flown into orbit.
Have SpaceX rockets exploded before?
While this particular explosion seems to have been heavily publicized, what some people may not know is that this isn’t the first time a SpaceX rocket has exploded. In fact, four earlier attempts at creating the colossal Starship have ended in huge explosions too.
Explosions are to be expected sometimes when working on a project of this size, but what’s also important to note is the many successful launches the company has had. Since June 2010, SpaceX has had a total of 224 successful launches, many of which were responsible for populating the sky with Starlink satellites and delivering resupply payloads to the International Space Station.
Was anyone hurt?
Thankfully this was just a test flight, so there was no one on board the spacecraft and no one injured or killed by the explosion. The Starship hasn’t yet had a manned flight attempt, and will reportedly take one of its first manned flights as part of the dearMoon project, hopefully later this year.
This project is a private spaceflight project led and organized by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. The project aims to fly Maezawa and eight other people around the moon aboard the Starship. The mission will be the first private spaceflight to fly beyond low Earth orbit and the first crewed mission to fly all the way around the Moon since Apollo 17 in 1972. The mission is currently expected to last for about six days.
What will SpaceX be changing after this flight?
In a venture like space travel, it’s important for companies to make the most of every test by learning from what went wrong. SpaceX isn’t viewing this test as a failure but instead as an opportunity to learn and continue to develop their rockets. So what will be changing before the next launch?
Well for starters, this launch attempt caused serious damage to the launch plate, so the company will be making some upgrades to it before the next attempt. As a launch pad for the next try, SpaceX will reportedly use a large water-cooled steel pad to resist the rocket’s liftoff. Elon Musk has suggested that this new pad will be ready within a month or two. In terms of actual upgrades to the rocket itself, SpaceX’s team of engineers is still working to determine what can be changed for the next try.