WASHINGTON–The Starship rocket booster SpaceX plans to use for an inaugural flight to orbit will “probably” return to its launch mount in Texas next week following a testing explosion on Monday, the company’s chief executive, Elon Musk, told Reuters.
“Damage has been minor but the booster will be returned to the high bay to inspect, and then return to the launch stand next week,” Musk stated in an email.
The booster, which is the tallest part of SpaceX’s Starship next-generation rocket system, was going through prelaunch testing on a stand when the engine section caught fire. It sent a huge shockwave across South Texas.
SpaceX launched prototypes for Starship’s top-half some six miles from ground. 66 km] above the ground has been launched a few times before, but the company never launched the nearly 400 feet (121. fully stacked rocket system. 92 tall rocket system for orbit is a much more difficult task.
The company had set a target for this debut orbital flight at the end of the summer, hoping to reach a long-delayed milestone in rocket development. However, Monday’s blast reaffirmed that goal.
The Federal Aviation Administration oversees rocket re-entry and launch safety. However, it said that they were in close contact with SpaceX after the explosion but would not initiate a formal investigation since the incident didn’t occur during a formal launch campaign.
Musk is SpaceX founder and chief engineer. He previously stated that the company would wheel the booster rocket back to the hangar in order to inspect its 33 rocket engine, the Raptors.
Musk posted on Wednesday that an orbital Starship test flight could be possible “as early as next month”, if all goes according to plan.
Starship forms the core of Musk’s plan to transport humans and cargo from Earth to Mars. NASA selected the rocket last year in order to launch the first astronaut crew to the lunar surface since U.S. Apollo.
SpaceX developed Starship in its Boca Chica Texas facilities. Future plans include launching the rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
By Joey Roulette