SpaceX scrubs Mars rocket prototype ‘hop test’ with one second

It’s not clear why SpaceX stopped the launch, although last-minute rubbing isn’t uncommon even during routine missile launches. Computers or air traffic controllers may have abnormally read the health of the rocket and prevented the engines from igniting. SpaceX has not disclosed the reason for the delay, although the company is still able to complete the test launch on Wednesday or Thursday.

SpaceX did not disclose on what day or time the company intends to conduct the test flight now.

The massive rocket is an early prototype of the Musk-proposed 160-meter-high spacecraft, Starship, which it hopes will be used to haul huge satellites into Earth’s orbit, transport people between cities at terrible speeds, and eventually create a human settlement on Mars.
The company is still a long way from building a working Starship spacecraft. So far, he has made eight different prototypes that have been used to test how well their steel frames perform under pressure, and have performed suborbital “hop tests” that tested how the rocket’s giant engines can steer the vehicle to soft, accurate landings. flight. According to Musk, the technique is essential for the recovery and reuse of vehicles and a controlled landing on the Moon or Mars one day.

Previous test flights of Starship prototypes did less than 500 meters in the air and used only one engine. The vehicle, which will be used in SpaceX’s next Starship test flight, called the SN8, will be the first to install three engines. And this will be by far the highest and most risky Starship test flight.

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Musk tried to dampen expectations, saying in a tweet that he had predicted that the SN8 would have every third chance to land safely back on Earth.

Initially, Musk announced via Twitter that SpaceX would throw the SN8 prototype at 60,000 feet – about 11 miles – or higher. This would have taken the vehicle into the stratosphere, the second layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, where weather balloons fly and supersonic aircraft flights are performed. But the company later decided to target 40,000 feet, according to Reuters.

However, the 40,000-meter test launch is expected to still leave plenty of room for Starship to perform a “landing flip maneuver,” allowing engineers to test the vehicle’s ability to redirect to landing, as it would in its final stage. orbital flight.

It is not clear why the company decided to reduce the altitude of the test flight, although 40,000 and 60,000 feet are still well below the 62-mile mark, which is widely held to mark the edge of outer space.

The SN8 missile would not be able to reach Earth’s orbit anyway. The final design of the Starship will require six rocket engines, and even then the vehicle will need a separate, powerful rocket booster called Super Heavy to orbit the spacecraft as it will have to travel at 17,000 miles per hour to travel. . It is not yet clear whether the company has begun developing or testing the Super Heavy Reminder.

To travel to Mars, the Starship will eventually have to reach an “escape speed” – about 25,000 miles per hour – which is the speed required for a spacecraft to break away from the Earth’s gravitational pull, allowing it to You can travel to remote regions of our day. system.

Musk founded SpaceX around his interplanetary travel ambitions, claiming to want to develop the technology that will allow humans to settle the Red Planet.

SpaceX’s Mars settlement plans raise a number of technological, political, and ethical issues. It is unclear, for example, if Musk envisions creating a space station in cooperation with terrestrial governments, or if he intends to create a sovereign nation that could violate existing international treaties governing human behavior in outer space. One of the most challenging hurdles may be financial: Musk didn’t even dare to guess the total cost estimate for Musk.
But Starship could have plenty of other practical goals closer to home. The spacecraft may be able to haul huge satellites or research telescopes to Earth, replenish the International Space Station, or transport people between cities at unprecedented speeds. In a September 2017 presentation, SpaceX said Starship “has the ability to get people from any city to any other city on Earth in an hour.”