Today we can witness one of the defining space events of the XXI century. SpaceX will attempt an orbital launch of the Starship spacecraft.
Starship is the largest launch vehicle in history. It consists of a Super Heavy stage (accelerator) and a spacecraft of the same name. Both components are reusable. The mass of the Starship and Super Heavy in the refueled state is about 5000 tons, the height is 120 m.
The Super Heavy stage (its length is 69 m) is equipped with 33 Raptor engines using methane as fuel and liquid oxygen as an oxidizer. The Starship spacecraft (its length is 50 m) is equipped with six Raptor engines. In the reusable version, it will be able to deliver 100-150 tons of cargo to low Earth orbit.
Live broadcast of the Starship launch
The first attempt to launch Starship took place on April 17. A giant rocket was installed on the launch pad, after which specialists began to refuel it with fuel components. However, just a few minutes before the end of the pre-launch countdown, it was stopped. The reason was the freezing of the boost valve in the Super Heavy stage, which made it impossible to launch.
A new attempt to launch Starship will take place on April 20. The 62-minute window for the spacecraft’s flight will open at 04:28 p.m. GMT+3. As usual, SpaceX will broadcast the event live.
Starship and Super Heavy will be launched from the SpaceX test site near the Texas village of Boca Chica. After separation, the accelerator will perform a partial return maneuver and land in the Gulf of Mexico 32 km from the launch point.
As for the prototype Starship, it will develop sufficient speed to enter low Earth orbit and make an incomplete orbit around the Earth. In the area of the Hawaiian Islands, the spacecraft will activate its engines and enter the atmosphere, after which it will be driven into the ocean about 100 km from the northwest coast of Kauai Island.
It is worth noting that during the upcoming test, SpaceX does not plan to rescue either Super Heavy or Starship. Even if the prototype of the spacecraft survives re-entry into the atmosphere, it will still collapse during the landing.
It should also be said that SpaceX gives very restrained forecasts about the outcome of the test. Given the complexity of the system and the consequences of the error, the probability of postponing the start is quite high. According to Elon Musk, he will consider it a success if Starship does not explode the launch pad and the company collects all the necessary data.
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