SpaceX’s Starship rocket, the most powerful rocket ever built, was scheduled for its first test flight on Monday, but a technical glitch forced the company to halt the countdown less than 10 minutes ahead of the scheduled launch. SpaceX continued with a “wet dress rehearsal”, stopping the clock with 10 seconds to go, just before the massive engines on the booster were to have been ignited. SpaceX founder Elon Musk said a frozen pressure valve forced a scrub of the launch.

Rescheduled for Thursday

SpaceX has now rescheduled the inaugural flight for Thursday. The new launch window opens at 8:28 am Central Time (13:28 GMT) and lasts 62 minutes. Before announcing Thursday as the new target for liftoff, SpaceX had said the launch would be delayed for at least 48 hours to recycle the liquid methane and liquid oxygen that fuels the rocket.

Starship’s capabilities

The Starship spacecraft is designed to ferry astronauts to the Moon, Mars and beyond. NASA has picked Starship to ferry astronauts to the Moon in late 2025 for the first time since the Apollo program ended in 1972. Starship consists of a 164-foot (50-meter) tall spacecraft designed to carry crew and cargo that sits atop a 230-foot tall first-stage Super Heavy booster rocket. Starship is both bigger and more powerful than NASA’s heavy rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS) and capable of lifting a payload of more than 100 metric tonnes into orbit. It generates 17 million pounds of thrust, more than twice that of the Saturn V rockets used to send Apollo astronauts to the Moon.

The plan for the integrated test flight is for the Super Heavy booster to separate from Starship about three minutes after launch and splash down in the Gulf of Mexico. Starship, which has six engines of its own, will continue to an altitude of nearly 150 miles, completing a near-circle of the Earth before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean about 90 minutes after launch. SpaceX foresees eventually putting a Starship into orbit and then refuelling it with another Starship so it can continue on a journey to Mars or beyond.

SpaceX’s goal is to make Starship reusable and bring down the price to a few million dollars per flight. The eventual objective is to establish bases on the Moon and Mars and put humans on the “path to being a multi-planet civilization,” Musk said.

Science

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