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Musk hails Starship test launch despite explosion

Elon Musk has hailed the first test flight of Starship as a success — despite it falling back to Earth after three minutes.

Early reports indicated that at least five of the Super Heavy rocket’s Raptor engines burnt out, and the booster didn’t correctly separate from the spacecraft.

However, it surpassed expectations by crucially passing through Max Q, the period in which the spacecraft endures maximum dynamic pressure.

“Congrats SpaceX team on an exciting test launch of Starship. Learned a lot for (the) next test launch in a few months,” Musk tweeted.

Starship is the collective name for both the SpaceX Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft that is fully reusable. Its aim is to travel to the moon one day before taking humans to Mars.

The launch beat NASA’s record of the world’s most powerful rocket to go into operation as it reached an altitude of 39 kilometres over the Gulf of Mexico.

The two vehicles, though still attached, entered a death spiral and exploded when the booster failed to separate.


“With a test like this, the 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,” said SpaceX.

Thomas Pesquet, a French astronaut with the European Space Agency, added people should “never mistake trial for failure”.

“As you say in Boca Chica, ‘It’s not an explosion. It’s just rapid unscheduled disassembly,’” he joked.

Starship’s launch comes weeks after NASA revealed the crew of Artemis II will include the first woman and person of colour to fly within the vicinity of the moon.

Mission specialist Christina Hammock Koch and pilot Victor Glover will be among a team of four that will embark on the 10-day test mission to flyby the moon, scheduled for November next year.

Artemis II is part of NASA’s Moon to Mars program, which will see humans return to the lunar surface for long-term exploration before journeying to Mars. It follows last December’s unmanned Artemis I mission.

Vanessa Wyche, the director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, said, “This mission paves the way for the expansion of human deep space exploration and presents new opportunities for scientific discoveries, commercial, industry and academic partnerships and the Artemis Generation.”

Also on board will be commander Reid Wiseman and second mission specialist Jeremy Hansen, who will be the first Canadian on a lunar mission.

Wiseman, Glover, and Koch will be making their second trips into space aboard Artemis II, with all three previously having served aboard the International Space Station and Glover as pilot on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-1, which landed 2 May 2021, after 168 days in space. Artemis II will be the first spaceflight for Hansen, who is a colonel in the Canadian Armed Forces and a former fighter pilot.

Artemis 2 will be the first crewed flight of the mission and will take astronauts on a similar journey to Artemis 1.

Artemis 3, however, will see astronauts returning to the lunar surface for the first time in decades, using a landing system made by SpaceX, that is a variant of Starship.

Critically, Artemis 3 will also facilitate the first woman to walk on the moon and the first person of colour.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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