On April 17, the Elon Musk-owned SpaceX is scheduled to launch a ‘Starship’ rocket from a location in Texas as part of its initial test mission.
The US space programme and SpaceX would benefit greatly from the launch’s success. Under NASA’s Artemis III mission, a variant of the Starship is entrusted with putting people on the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years.
The Starship is regarded as being nearly twice as powerful as the next-most powerful rocket ever constructed. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has permitted SpaceX to fly Starship Super Heavy, a prospective Mars spacecraft, for the first time. The initial spaceflights involve going to Moon as a part of NASA’s programme. The first orbital flight is intended to test the technology, which includes a reusable rocket that aspires to a quick turnaround time for subsequent crewed Moon and Mars missions.
SpaceX tweeted, “Targeting as soon as Monday, April 17 for the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket from Starbase in Texas”. At 5:30 IST on Monday, the spacecraft is anticipated to embark on its first orbital flight within a 150-minute launch window.
SpaceX’s 394-foot tall, fully stacked Starship rocket system, which consists of a Starship rocket resting atop a “Super Heavy” first-stage booster with 33 rocket engines, will be launched for the first time during the test flight. According to the SpaceX website, both Starship systems are about 120 metres tall, with Super Heavy standing 69 metres and Starship 50 metres tall.
Musk tweeted, “It’s the first launch of a very complicated, gigantic rocket, so it might not launch. We’re going to be very careful, and if we see anything that gives us concern, we will postpone the launch. If we do launch, I would consider anything that does not result in the destruction of the launch pad itself to be a win”.
SpaceX wants to travel to Mars and beyond, but the existing missions are focused on the Moon. SpaceX on its website says, “SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket –collectively referred to as Starship– represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond. Starship will be the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed, capable of carrying up to 150 metric tonnes fully reusable and 250 metric tonnes expendable”. NASA stated, “NASA initially selected SpaceX to develop a human landing system variant of Starship to land the next American astronauts on the Moon under Artemis III, which will mark humanity’s first return to the lunar surface in more than 50 years. As part of that contract, SpaceX will also conduct an uncrewed demonstration mission to the Moon prior to Artemis III”.
Musk tweeted about the launch and said, “Success maybe, excitement guaranteed,” repeating his previous assumption that the mission has a 50% success rate. SpaceX stated, “With a test such as this, success is measured by how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances the development of Starship”.
The launch of the Starship and the Artemis programme heralds the start of a New Space Age because, in contrast to earlier Moon trips, the Artemis missions focus on maintaining a long-term presence on the Moon. The Artemis programme has viewed the Moon as a stepping stone to Mars and beyond.