SpaceX’s Starship rocket is fully stacked and ready to launch again, CEO Elon Musk said Wednesday. He’s just waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to approve the company’s launch license.
–Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 6, 2023
Starship is SpaceX’s next flagship rocket, standing taller and more powerful than any previous launch system. The Starship vehicle, stacked atop its Super Heavy booster, stands nearly 400 feet tall.
Musk wants to use the launch system to send people and cargo to Mars realizing his dream to build the first settlement on Mars ,
The Starship spacecraft and its Super Heavy booster were launched together for the first time in April. But nearly three minutes after launch, miles above Earth, Starship failed to separate from the booster — a critical step to reaching orbital heights.
Weighed down with its booster, Starship began to tumble back to Earth. Video footage shows the rocket self-destructed in mid-flight , out of safety concerns, but never made it to space.
It was later determined that Starship had also blasted a crater into its launchpad, spraying dirt, chunks of concrete, and other debris onto neighboring areas.
Some of the debris reportedly reached Port Isabel, a town five miles away from SpaceX’s launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas.
The FAA required SpaceX to investigate Starship’s mid-flight error
After the April launch attempt blew up, the FAA required SpaceX to file a mishap investigation report, a common procedure after a flight has gone awry.
SpaceX submitted the final report on August 15, per Payload, but the FAA says the investigation is still open.
“The FAA won’t authorize another Starship Launch until SpaceX has implemented the corrective measures identified during the investigation into the Starship mishap,” The FAA informed Insider via email. They also said that SpaceX would have to meet all regulatory requirements in order to modify its launch licence.
Since the last launch, SpaceX has made more than 1,000 modifications to improve its rocket design ahead of its next test flight, Musk told journalist Ashlee Vance in a discussion on X on June 24, per Space.com.
One of these changes can be seen in the newly released picture of the rocket: a vent and heat shield have been placed between the rocket and the booster.
Following the rocket’s inability to separate from its booster in April, SpaceX has moved to a process called “hot staging,” whereby the engines of the Starship rocket are ignited to push the ship away from its Super Heavy booster before the booster’s shutdown, per Space.com.
“We’re adding an extension to the booster that is almost all vents, essentially,” Musk told Vance, according to Space.com. “So that allows the upper-stage engine plume to go through the sort of vented extension of the booster and not just blow itself up.”
The vent and shield aim to protect the booster, since SpaceX wants to reuse both the Starship and its booster after each flight. That’s the key to the revolutionary potential of Starship: a fully reusable, Mars-grade, human-ready rocket.
It’s also added a water deluge system to the launchpad, which essentially floods the area with water to keep it from heating up too much, Musk told Vance per Space.com.
–SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 28, 2023
That system uses a steel plate that’s “basically like a gigantic upside-down shower head,” Musk said.
According to Space.com, SpaceX has also been repairing the launchpad and reinforcing it so that the concrete can withstand Starship’s power next time.
This post has been updated to include new information.