Last Wednesday, Elon Musk’s SpaceX Starship SN8 sparked people’s interests.
The spaceship soared for six-and-a-half minutes, skimmed the stratosphere, and sailed back to the planet…until the spaceship crash-landed into smoke and flames. There were no passengers aboard the rocket.
“No Failure, Only Feedback”
According to Musk, a fiery ending was not unexpected. Before takeoff, he predicted a one-in-three chance the launch and landing would have had a win. On Twitter, Musk credited the crash-landing to an issue in the rocket’s fuel system.
“Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD…”
That being said, the CEO still deemed the rocket’s ascent a success:
“We got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!”
Wednesday’s launch was considered a breakthrough as their previous spaceships have only been able to travel 500 feet with one engine for less than a minute. Meanwhile, the SN8 was able to float in the air for six-and-a-half minutes with three rocket engines.
That being said, SpaceX is still a long way from building a fully operational spacecraft, especially since its prototypes are still unable to reach the edge of outer space. The final starship will require six rocket engines and a booster if it hopes to orbit outside the Earth’s atmosphere.
Rush to the Stars
According to CNN, SpaceX and Musk are “known to embrace mishaps during the early stages” of their tests.
Unlike other companies, SpaceX is more impatient in conducting their tests and learning from their errors. NASA on the other hand prioritizes thorough research and conducting small ground tests before risking a rocket onto a launchpad.
The rocket launch was initially intended to take place last Monday; however, the test was postponed to Wednesday due to technical mishaps. That being said, last-minute hiccups are not uncommon. While it is unknown what the actual issues were, one can deduce it concerned the rocket’s three engines, especially since one of them shut off during the live launch.
Despite the explosion, SpaceX is ready to test their next Starship prototype, the SN9, already built for takeoff. According to a presentation from 2019, Musk’s vision is for his final fully-operational starship to land like a skydiver falling through the air, with the spacecraft’s belling facing down to Earth.
The SN8’s flight test serves as one of SpaceX’s efforts to eventually commercialize space travel. Musk founded the company over his ambitions to accomplish interplanetary-travel to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. Meanwhile, there are also his plans for filming a Hollywood film with Tom Cruise on space. SpaceX’s ambitions bring up alarming ethical, political, and technological questions regarding their vision.
It is unclear if Musk plans to establish a space colony on the moon or Mars. If Musk plans to create a sovereign nation in outer space, CNN states “he could violate various existing treaties that govern human behavior in outer space.” Meanwhile, not even Musk is sure how much the total project will end up costing.
The thought of space travel sounds tempting, yet there are many trials to consider.