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SpaceX success: The Starship rocket has finally been sent into space

SpaceX success: The Starship rocket has finally been sent into space

SpaceX's approach to test flights is unusual, to say the least. In fact, while traditional development programs build their devices to perfection before organizing tests in real conditions in order to ensure their proper functioning, Musk's company follows completely different stages: building, testing, tearing down, and starting over. “Each of these test flights remains a simple test,” SpaceX said. statement Before launch. “We don't regulate it in the lab or on the test bench; We put our flight equipment in real flight conditions to maximize learning. »

The results of this unique method were as amazing as they were violent. During the spacecraft's first “integrated” launch in April 2023, the stages failed to separate, leading to the device self-destructing just 4 minutes after liftoff. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US organization responsible for wildlife management and conservation, some concrete debris collided with a nature reserve, 10 kilometers from the launch pad. During the second flight, in November 2023, the two stages of the giant rocket were able to separate, which was a major breakthrough, but the booster exploded before landing in the Gulf of Mexico; Eight minutes later, at an altitude of 150 kilometers, the spacecraft's upper stage caught fire and exploded mid-flight after venting excess liquid oxygen.

The FAA required safety modifications to be implemented during these test flights. SpaceX complied with these requests and compiled a list of changes, which included “hardware modifications to upcoming Starship vehicles to improve leakage mitigation, fire protection, and operational improvements.” Related to the propellant evacuation channel in order to increase its reliability. On Wednesday, March 13, the F.A.A Issue a statement He authorized the launch and said the company had “complied with all safety, environmental, policy and financial accountability requirements.”

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This flight paves the way for new launches, and the spacecraft program is poised to accelerate. SpaceX has requested authorization to operate as many as nine flights from its Starbase base in South Texas this year alone, Kelvin Coleman, the Federal Aviation Administration's director of commercial space transportation, said on February 23. “That's a lot of launches. We've had many, many long discussions with SpaceX trying to figure out how we can make this happen. We're committed to the company's mission, so we'll work with them to get them back up and running as soon as possible.”

Starbase's future was never certain. In 2022, Elon Musk revealed that the spaceport will likely only be used for test flights, not actual missions. However, since this statement, despite the planned construction of launch sites in Florida, SpaceX has also built another launch pad within its Starbase with the aim of using it for real-world operations. The company also plans to build a new office complex, employee housing and a new factory to manufacture the upper and lower floors at its Texas site.

Once the Starbase expansion plans were finalized, the teams installed a new sign on the spaceport reading “Gateway to Mars.” The success of the March 14 test and plans to prepare Starbase for interplanetary missions, that title has never been closer to reality.