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SpaceX Starship suffers failure post-launch, FAA investigates

Published Nov 18, 2023 12:19PM ET
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© Reuters.

SOUTH TEXAS – SpaceX's latest Starship rocket encountered significant issues during its mission to reach partial orbit, resulting in an explosion shortly after stage separation on today. The launch, which took place from South Texas, was a key test for the company's ambitions to develop fully reusable spacecraft aimed at reducing the cost of space missions.

Despite the successful firing of all 33 booster engines, the booster exploded after separation, leading to the detonation of the upper stage's flight termination system and loss of contact. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has confirmed that there were no casualties or damage on the ground and has launched an investigation into the incident.

This setback comes as industry experts and NASA have previously expressed confidence in Starship's potential, even as two major advertisers, Disney and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), halted ad spending with Elon Musk's social network X on Friday following his endorsement of controversial content.

SpaceX engineer John Insprucker described the launch as "just beautiful," highlighting the visual spectacle despite the subsequent failure. Residents near the launch site, including Emma Guevara from Brownsville, reported feeling their houses shake due to the vibrations caused by the rocket's ignition.

The Starship was fueled with liquid oxygen and liquid methane before liftoff, a combination that is part of SpaceX's strategy for creating a sustainable and cost-effective launch system. The company's lunar ambitions also include approximately 20 launches for refueling operations with an orbital propellant depot and tanker spacecraft – a complex operation that has yet to be achieved in microgravity conditions.

In preparation for future lunar landings, NASA has also sought redundancy by engaging Blue Origin alongside SpaceX to ensure robust landing capabilities for its Artemis program.

Today's event marks a significant moment in SpaceX's journey toward revolutionizing space travel. Despite the explosion, such tests are critical steps towards realizing fully reusable space vehicles that could make economical and frequent trips beyond Earth's atmosphere. The investigation by the FAA will be crucial in determining the cause of the anomaly and guiding improvements for future missions.

This article was generated with the support of AI and reviewed by an editor. For more information see our T&C.

SpaceX Starship suffers failure post-launch, FAA investigates
 

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