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San Francisco, May 3 – SpaceX is likely to launch another orbital test flight of the huge Starship vehicle in six to eight weeks time again, company founder and CEO Elon Musk said.
On April 20, the first flight test of SpaceX’s fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket, built to take humanity to the Moon, Mars and beyond, lifted off successfully.
It however, exploded and failed to reach orbit.
But the blast meant the test flight was successful, according to the company.
“Basically, the outcome was roughly sort of what I expected, and maybe slightly exceeded my expectations,” Musk said on Twitter Spaces.
The billionaire entrepreneur went on to say that the launch pad and the next Starship vehicle should be ready to launch in six to eight weeks, Space.com reported.
Meanwhile, the rocket launch has come under the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) scanner for reportedly spreading plumes of potentially hazardous debris endangering human lives as well as habitats of animals.
This means that before Starship’s next launch, it would need the regulator’s clean chit that the rocket will not affect public safety.
A slew of environmental groups have also sued the FAA for failing to address dangers of SpaceX’s Starship rocket launch, which can harm “crucial habitats, putting imperilled wildlife at great risk and harming community interests”.
The complaint also argues that the FAA failed to fully consider the climate harms of fueling rockets with liquid methane — a potent greenhouse pollutant.
“The debris is really just basically sand and rock, so it’s not toxic at all or anything,” Musk said on Twitter Spaces. “It’s just like a sandstorm, essentially – basically a human-made sandstorm. But we don’t want to do that again.”
However, he said the company is taking measures to prevent a recurrence.
SpaceX also plans to replace the destroyed concrete beneath Starbase’s orbital launch mount with a sturdy steel plate, which will spout water to deal with Super Heavy’s powerful exhaust.
The new system “is basically a water-jacketed sandwich that’s two layers of plate steel that are also perforated on the upper side”, Musk said, comparing it to a “massive, super-strong steel shower head pointing upward”.
“The longest-lead item is probably requalification of the flight termination system,” Musk said. “That’s obviously something that we want to make sure of before proceeding with the next flight.”