Billionaire Elon Musk’s company, SpaceX, must once again take off, on Saturday November 18, from the Boca Chica base (Texas), the largest and most powerful rocket ever built, Starshipafter a first launch which ended in a gigantic explosion in spring 2023.
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If it succeeds, this Saturday, November 18, the second test flight of Starshipthe gigantic rocket built by SpaceX, the company of billionaire Elon Musk, will be closely scrutinized by NASA, which is counting on this vessel for its return missions to the Moon. The machine, 120 meters high, is due to lift off the ground on Saturday at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. UT), with a 20-minute firing window, from the SpaceX base in Boca Chica, in the far south of Texas. , in the USA.
The rocket explodes after four minutes
On April 20, 2023, Starship had taken off for the first time in its full configuration. But several engines did not work, and SpaceX intentionally blew up the rocket after four minutes. The takeoff had propelled a cloud of dust several kilometers from the launch pad, itself heavily damaged. Chunks of concrete were catapulted under the power of the engines, and a fire broke out in a nearby regional park. The American air regulator (FAA) opened an investigation, before finally giving the green light, on Wednesday, November 15, for a second flight.
The rocket is made up of two stages: the Super Heavy propulsion stage and its 33 engines, and the spaceship Starship, placed above and which by extension gives its name to the entire rocket. During the first test, these two stages failed to separate in flight. The separation system was therefore changed, Elon Musk indicated during a conference at the beginning of October, adding that the test of this system would be “ the riskiest part » of this second flight.
Too slow development?
“ I don’t want to get my hopes up too high », Warned the boss of SpaceX. The flight plan is the same as in April 2023: the ship must attempt to make a turn “ almost complete Earth » and land in the Pacific, off the coast of Hawaii, described the billionaire. It will not technically reach Earth orbit, but will be “ just below “.
The development of Starship does not seem, despite everything, to be fast enough to stick to the plans of NASA, the American space agency, which has signed a contract with SpaceX. A modified version of the machine must serve as a lunar lander to place astronauts on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972. This mission, named Artemis 3, is officially planned for 2025, a date which seems increasingly unrealistic.