BOCA CHICA, Texas, April 17 (Reuters) – Elon Musk’s SpaceX canceled the highly anticipated launch of its newly compact Starship cruise ship and its Super Heavy rocket in the final minutes of the countdown due to a valve freeze, delaying the uncrewed test flight. for at least two days.
The two-stage rocket, which stands 394 feet (120 meters) higher than the Statue of Liberty, was originally slated to blast off from SpaceX’s “Starbazz” facility in Boca Chica, Texas, during a two-hour launch period. It started at 8 am EST (1200 GMT).
But the California-based aerospace company announced in a live webcast that it had been cleaning up the planned 90-minute trip to space for at least 48 hours, citing a frozen pressure valve in the rocket’s lower-stage booster. That would make Wednesday the next launch window available for the mission.
SpaceX officials said in the webcast that ground teams will nonetheless continue pre-flight fueling of the rocket until the final seconds of Monday’s countdown, turning the canceled launch attempt into a “rehearsal” for the next one.
Musk, the company’s billionaire founder and CEO, told a private audience on Twitter Sunday night that the mission has a better chance of winding down than going live with launch on Monday.
Taking the craft into space for the first time will mark a major milestone in SpaceX’s ambition to return humans to the Moon and eventually to Mars — at least initially as part of NASA’s recently launched human spaceflight program, Artemis.
The successful first flight will also instantly classify the Starship System as the most powerful launch vehicle on Earth.
Both the lower-stage Super Heavy booster and the upper-stage Starship cruise ship that will take it into space are designed as reusable components, able to return to Earth for an easy landing—a maneuver that has become routine for SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 9 rocket.
But neither stage was recovered for the first test flight into space. Instead, both parts of the spacecraft will end their inaugural flight with a crash landing into the sea — the spacecraft’s upper stage descends into the Pacific Ocean after achieving nearly one full orbit away from Earth.
Starship cruise ship prototypes have made five sub-space flights as high as 6 miles (10 km) above Earth in recent years, but the Super Heavy booster never left Earth.
In February, SpaceX ran a booster test, igniting 31 of 33 Raptor engines for about 10 seconds with the rocket held in place vertically atop a platform.
The FAA just last Friday granted authorization for what will be the first test flight of the fully stacked missile system, clearing up a final regulatory hurdle for the long-awaited launch.
If all goes as planned at the next launch show, all 33 of the Raptor’s engines will fire simultaneously to send the spacecraft flying most of the way around Earth before reentering the atmosphere and falling free into the Pacific Ocean at supersonic speed, about 60mph. miles (97 km) off the coast of the Northern Hawaiian Islands.
After separating from the spacecraft, the Super Heavy booster is expected to perform controlled return flight starts before plunging into the Gulf of Mexico.
As designed, the Starship rocket is nearly twice as powerful as NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which made its first uncrewed trip into orbit in November, sending NASA’s cruise ship named Orion on a 10-day journey around the moon and beyond. .
The reporting was done by Joe Skipper in Boca Chica, Texas, and Joy Roulette in Denver. Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Edited by Clarence Fernandez
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