SpaceX release concept animation for Mars mission
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During a test last Monday, a massive fireball erupted from the base of Booster 7, which is a prototype of Super Heavy, the gargantuan first stage of Starship, which is a deep space transportation system that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hopes will carry humans to Mars. The terrifying explosion occurred during a test at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in South Texas and occurred when an “engine spin start test” did not go according to plan, according to Mr Musk.
In a tweet, the world’s richest man admitted that the fireball was not intentional, and that the “team is assessing damage”.
He later gave one possible explanation as to why the eruption took place, saying: “Cryogenic fuel is an added challenge, as it evaporates to create fuel-air explosion risk in a partially oxygen atmosphere like Earth.
“That said, we have a lot of sensors to detect this. More later.”
Mr Musk then added that one of the things that SpaceX would be doing moving forward is burning off the hydrogen leaks that are caused before the ignition, presumably using small sparks set up under the shuttle’s engine.
He wrote: “This particular issue, however, was specific to the engine spin start test (Raptor has a complex start sequence).
“Going forward, we won’t do a spin start test with all 33 engines at once.”
When asked about what kind of damage the rocket faced, Mr Musk responded saying: “Base of the vehicle seems ok by flashlight.
“I was just out there about an hour ago. We shut down the pad for the night for safety. Will know more in the morning.”
SpaceX is currently preparing the Booster 7 for Starship’s first ever orbital test flight, which could take place within a few months.
However, it is unclear when the blaze has caused any major damage to the rocket, which could delay SpaceX’s launch plans.
Starship’s system consists of two parts- the 50 metres long titular rocket and the Super Heavy booster.
According to Mr Musk, both elements of Starship will be fully and rapidly reusable, which could potentially make plans to colonise Mars economically viable, along with boosting other ambitious deep space exploration plans
Starship will be powered by 39 of SpaceX’s powerful new Raptor engines, with 33 propelling the booster stage of the rocket, while a further six will power the upper stage spacecraft.
SpaceX has already launched several upper-stage Starship prototypes on high-altitude test flights, with one of them even successfully landing in May 2021.
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However, the upcoming mission, which will launch a Starship vehicle known as Ship 24 into orbit, will be the first-ever lift-off for a Super Heavy.
Mr Musk’s space firm currently has plans to use the Starship to transport people and cargo to the Moon, Mars, and other deeper locations.
NASA has selected the system to become the first lander to carry humans to the Moon in a generation, as part of the the Artemis lunar exploration programme.
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