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What is SpaceX’s Starship?

Written by Sthitee Mohanty, senior writer

Starship is the first launch vehicle designed to be fully reusable. It is capable of carrying up to 100 passengers on long-duration, interplanetary flights.

By I Kid You Not , in Space , at April 25, 2023 Tags:

Written by Sthitee Mohanty, senior writer

ON the 20th of April, SpaceX’s Starship exploded after launch.

Here’s a look at all you need to know about the Starship – what it is, what’s special about it and why did starship explode.

Quick view – what is Starship

  • Starship is a heavy lift launch vehicle owned and operated by Elon Musk’s company Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX
  • Collectively referring to Super Heavy Booster and Starship, it intents to be a fully reusable launch vehicle
  • Its initial launch was planned for 14 April 2023 on a launch pad in Texas, U.S.A.
  • The launch got postponed due to a frozen valve
  • When finally launched on 20 April 2023, the vehicle exploded when the Super Heavy Booster failed to separate from the Starship

The launch

Collectively referred to as Starship, Elon Musk-owned SpaceX was all set to launch its new Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket on 14 April 2023, before the launch was called off due to a frozen valve. It subsequently exploded in its second launch on 20 April 2023.

In technical terms, Starship is a super heavy-lift launch vehicle that stands 120 meters tall.

What is Starship?

Source: NASA

The Starship spacecraft along with its Super Heavy rocket is a “fully reusable transportation system that can carry both crew and cargo beyond the Earth’s atmosphere to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.”

Once it is successfully launched, Starship will become the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed.

What’s special about Starship?

Image Source: SpaceX Twitter

It is the first launch vehicle designed to be fully reusable – and that’s the big difference and a big deal. This is because, till now, the rockets that go into space can only be used once since they destruct on arrival back to Earth. This makes space exploration expensive.

Elon Musk’s company Space X is changing that by making reusable rockets. This is now ushing in an era of space travel and other players enter the space as well.

Also it can….

  • Fully re-fuel in space  
  • Carry up to 100 passengers on long-duration, interplanetary flights.

What are the potential uses of Starship?

Commercial UseResearch and Exploration Use
Transporting satellite machinery to spaceLower cost of space exploration due to low cost nature
Space tourism through point-to-point flightEasier exploration of Moon, Mars

What is Starship capable of?

  • Fully re-fuel able spacecraft in orbit 
  • A payload capacity of 330,000 pounds when in reusable configuration and 550,000 pounds if fully expended
  • Capable of carrying upto 100 passengers on long-duration, interplanetary flights while cutting down on transport time

What are the different parts of the Starship? 

The Starship has two operation stages – its parts vary according to the stages.

  • Super Heavy Booster

This engine is used in the first stage of operation. It runs on methane and liquid oxygen.

  • Starship

The second stage is powered by the Starship operating through Raptor engines and Raptor Vacuum Engines. 

Raptor Vacuum Engines can operate in the vacuum of space. 

Where is the launch site for Starship?

Starship was to launch at SpaceX’s launching site at Boca Chica, Isla Blanca Park, South Padre Island, Texas, U.S.A.

Why was Starship’s launch postponed on 14 April?

The Starship’s launch was postponed according to a frozen launch as per the statement released by SpaceX. The rest of the launch was a “wet dress rehearsal” – the rocket was filled with fuel but did not get launched.

Why did Starship explode?

When finally launched on 20 April 2023, Starship was intentionally destroyed by SpaceX because of technical problems.

The two parts of the launch vehicle, Super Heavy Booster and Starship did not separate at the appropriate height. Both parts received the flight termination command, exploding mid-flight.

SpaceX did not expect everything to work out as first launches rarely do. They celebrated the 29 km height the vehicle reached as a new milestone.

Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, plans to launch Starship with its own private crew someday in the near future. For now, it’s back to the drawing board for them!

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