Elon Musk’s silver-tone vision of sending humans to the Moon and Mars stands next to a 480-foot launch tower in the south corner of Texas. It’s a new SpaceX rocket called the Starship and it’s more powerful than any vehicle that has ever traveled to space.
Early Monday morning, SpaceX will attempt to launch the Starship prototype into space for the first time.
“We’re actually dying to get this rocket to Earth,” Musk said Sunday night during an audio discussion with Twitter users.
Here’s what you need to know about the trip.
When is the spacecraft launching and how can I watch it?
The Starship and the Super Heavy that will carry it into orbit are scheduled to be loaded with fuel early Monday morning at the SpaceX test site in Texas, just outside of Brownsville. The launch site, which SpaceX calls Starbase, is close to the Gulf of Mexico.
SpaceX has scheduled the flight as early as 9 a.m. ET, and it could start anytime between that time and 10:30 a.m.
SpaceX said it will go live on her YouTube channel 45 minutes before the rocket is ready for take off.
If problems arise and SpaceX cannot launch on Monday, the attempt will continue throughout the week. While the site was launched It looked blurry on Sunday afternoon, SpaceX said The weather looked “very fine tomorrow morning but we’re watching for wind shear”.
But Musk has set low expectations for its Monday launch, suggesting it will likely be canceled on a technicality.
“There’s a good chance it will be delayed because we’re going to be very careful about that launch,” he said. “If it goes wrong, there’s a lot that needs to go wrong.”
What is a spacecraft?
It’s the tallest rocket ever built – it’s 394 feet tall, or nearly 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty including its pedestal.
And it has the most engines ever in a rocket booster: The Super Heavy, the lower part that will propel the upper Starship into orbit, has 33 of SpaceX’s powerful Raptor engines poking out from its bottom. They’re capable of generating 16 million pounds of thrust at full throttle, far more than the Saturn V that carried the Apollo astronauts to the Moon.
Starship is designed to be completely reusable. The Super Heavy booster is meant to land like SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets, and the Starship will be able to return from the belly of space through the atmosphere like a sky diver before pivoting to a vertical position for landing.
Why is SpaceX building the starship?
The current SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is the most launched rocket in the world. It has launched into space 24 times in 2023, most recently on Friday night.
The spacecraft is the next step. It will be able to carry much more payloads and many more Falcon 9s. And because it is completely reusable, Starship can significantly reduce the cost of launching payloads into orbit.
NASA is paying SpaceX to build a version of the vehicle to carry astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface for the Artemis III and IV missions later this decade. The spacecraft is also central to Mr. Musk’s vision of sending people to Mars.
What will happen during the trip?
For Monday’s test flight, the Starship will fly a section of the way around the Earth, starting in Texas and splashing around in the waters off Hawaii.
Eventually, SpaceX hopes to regularly land both the Super Heavy orbiter and Starship for reuse on future launches. But the spacecraft for Monday’s flight will crash into the ocean and sink. Intended as the first test for vehicles, the data will enable engineers to fix what isn’t working and make improvements.
Mr. Musk said Sunday night that the main goal of the flight is to get the missile away from the launch site without error.
“Just don’t blow up the launch pad,” he said.
About eight minutes after launch Monday, the Super Heavy will blast off into the Gulf of Mexico. The spacecraft will fly higher in space, reaching an altitude of about 150 miles and traveling around Earth before reentering the atmosphere. If it survives re-entry, about 90 minutes after launch, it will splash out into the Pacific Ocean about 62 miles north of the island of Kauai.
But with all of the Starship’s new systems, the SpaceX founder acknowledged the difficulties of achieving all of the flight goals.
“There are a million ways this missile could fail,” Musk said. “I could go on for hours.”
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