(Starbase) The first takeoff of Starship, the largest rocket in the world, will not take place on Monday due to a technical problem encountered during the last minutes of preparations, SpaceX announced.
The takeoff of this giant was planned from the Starbase space base, in the far south of Texas in the United States.
SpaceX teams, however, continued to run the countdown and simulate take-off operations in the form of a dress rehearsal, stopped just before the scheduled launch time.
Fallback dates are possible during the week. “We anticipate a minimum of 48 hours before we can attempt this test flight again,” a SpaceX employee said during the company’s live video.
“A valve appears to be frozen,” SpaceX boss Elon Musk earlier tweeted.
From its height of 120 meters, Starship belongs to the category of super-heavy launchers, capable of transporting more than 100 tons of cargo into orbit. Its take-off power must be more than twice that of the legendary Saturn V, the Apollo lunar program rocket (111 meters).
It is intended for trips to the Moon and Mars.
This black and silver behemoth, which runs on liquid oxygen and methane, has never flown in its complete configuration, with its super-powerful first stage, called Super Heavy.
Only the second stage of the vehicle, the Starship spacecraft which by extension gives its name to the entire rocket, has carried out suborbital tests (at an altitude of approximately 10 km).
The flight plan for Monday was as follows: About three minutes after takeoff, Super Heavy was to detach and fall back into the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Starship spacecraft then had to continue its ascent on its own, and complete a little less than a circumnavigation of the Earth before falling back into the Pacific Ocean.
But this was the “best case scenario,” SpaceX said, as the outcome of the test is uncertain.
“Tomorrow probably won’t be a success, if that means reaching orbit,” Elon Musk said Sunday night, speaking to his followers via Twitter.
“If we see anything that worries us, we will reschedule the flight,” he warned.
When takeoff is attempted, the billionaire simply wished he would not destroy the launch pad.
His fear: that one of Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor Engines would explode and cause a “domino effect” by spreading to others. “It would surely take several months to rebuild the launch pad if we melt it down,” he said.
The main goal is to collect as much data as possible for the following prototypes.
This inaugural flight was to be followed very closely by NASA. The American space agency has chosen this spacecraft to land its astronauts on the Moon for the first time in more than half a century, during the Artemis 3 mission officially scheduled for 2025.
The astronauts will blast off separately aboard NASA’s new mega-rocket, SLS (98 meters high, with take-off power nearly half that planned for Starship).
They will travel to the Moon in the Orion capsule, which will then dock with the Starship spacecraft, previously placed in lunar orbit. It is he who will bring the astronauts down to the surface of the Moon. Without this lander, Artemis 3 cannot take place.
In the future, the rocket must be fully reusable. Super Heavy will have to return to land against his launch tower, equipped with arms to catch him.
The Starship spacecraft will have to return to land on Earth using retrorockets. It was this maneuver that had been attempted several times in 2020 and 2021. Several prototypes had then descended too quickly, and had hit the ground in impressive explosions – before one of them finally succeeded in landing.
The idea of a reusable launcher, Elon Musk’s grand strategy, is to cut prices. Each Starship flight could ultimately cost only “a few million” dollars, he repeated on Sunday.
The rocket already has customers: its first crewed flight is planned in partnership with American billionaire Jared Isaacman.
Another billionaire, the Japanese Yusaku Maezawa, and the American entrepreneur Dennis Tito (the first space tourist in history), have also announced that they will board for a trip around the Moon.
But for Elon Musk, Starship is above all the ship that must allow humanity to become multiplanetary: “We have an arduous path of two or three years ahead of us […] but in the end we should have something that allows us to set up a base on the Moon and on Mars. »