Third launch of the Starship rocket. The first attempt to launch this rocket's engines in space

Luc Williams

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SpaceX has many ambitious goals

Starship is a mega-rocket built by SpaceX, which is intended not only to carry the largest loads into orbit and significantly reduce the costs of such transportation, but also to play a key role in the colonization of the Moon, later Mars, and in flights into deep space in general. A sufficiently large fleet of Starships may even allow for a permanent transport connection with the Moon.

When it comes to its next flight, SpaceX has many ambitious goals. Just like during the last test that ended with an explosion, both stages of the rocket are to be launched – the huge booster (1st stage) and the Starship vehicle (2nd stage).

After 2 minutes and 44 seconds of flight, already in space, the booster will disconnect from the second stage, brake and start returning to land on the water thanks to the engines running for a moment. At the moment of separation, the Starship will start its own engines, which will accelerate it into a short phase of flight in space. Once completed, the vehicle will re-enter the atmosphere and begin landing in the Indian Ocean. This will be the first attempt to launch the rocket's engines in space.

The entire Starship system measures 120 m high. The first stage, measuring 70 m, is powered by 33 Raptor engines fueled by liquid methane and oxygen, which in total have twice the power of the engines of the Saturn V rocket, which NASA used in the Apollo program. The Starship vehicle itself is 50 m high and is powered by 6 Raptor engines, three of which are adapted to work in space.

The whole thing is clearly taller than Saturn V and more than twice as tall as the entire shuttle system. The Starship is expected to carry a minimum of 150 tons of cargo to low Earth orbit. For comparison, the new European Ariane 6 rocket in a more powerful variant will be 20 tons. Ariane, like the SLS rocket recently built by NASA, cannot be used repeatedly and the costs of their construction are high.

Will Starship change space flights?

Starship, if it starts its regular operation, has a good chance to truly change space flights. It can take off and land both at the SpaceX spaceport in Boca Chica, at the John F. Kennedy Space Center, and on special ocean vessels.

The first test of the rocket took place in December 2020, when the second stage rose to an altitude of over 12 km, reaching the intended ceiling. The prototype reached Earth using engine braking, but its speed was still too high, causing the vehicle to explode. According to SpaceX, the cause of the disaster was too low pressure in the tanks supplying fuel to ignite the engines. Because of this, the rocket hit the ground at too high a speed.

Another test flight took place in November 2023, during which Starship was to reach orbit. Shortly after the successful separation of the first and second stages at an altitude of 70 km, the first stage exploded. The same thing happened to the second stage shortly before reaching orbit.

Both tests, despite this ending, were in some sense a success. First of all, the rockets flew, and at the same time the tests became a source of invaluable knowledge for SpaceX. Analysis of the causes of disaster effects allowed us to find weak points.

It is worth remembering that other rockets (including the Falcons built by SpaceX) also exploded before they began regular, safe flights. However, after each attempt, they became more and more perfect. At the same time, as experts point out, SpaceX is a mature company that has been producing rockets and offering orbital transportation services for years.

The test will be broadcast live.

Marek Matacz


Luc's expertise lies in assisting students from a myriad of disciplines to refine and enhance their thesis work with clarity and impact. His methodical approach and the knack for simplifying complex information make him an invaluable ally for any thesis writer.