SpaceX Starship: Why this test launch was very important for space travel?

SpaceX’s Starship has launched and although it failed to separate from its booster and tumbled before breaking up in the Gulf of Mexico, this historic moment has still been deemed a success by the company. Thousands of spectators heard and felt the thunderous roar of the 33 engines firing at once. SpaceX founder, Elon Musk, had predicted “Success maybe… Excitement guaranteed”.

Destroying prototypes is part of SpaceX’s design ethos, which is one reason why crowds flock to their launches. The rocket has two parts, the Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft. The goal of the test was to determine if the parts could safely separate while in high-speed flight.

Spectators watch Inspiration4 SpaceX launchAP

The Starship is intended to carry more than 150 tons into orbit and land on other planetary bodies such as the moon and Mars, with NASA planning to use the spacecraft to land astronauts on the lunar surface as part of the Artemis program. Musk wants to use Starship to dominate the heavy-launch market and to colonize Mars.

Starship and its booster have attracted customers from space-struck tourists to the Defense Department, which is seeking to use the rocket as a way to fly cargo anywhere on Earth in just 30 minutes. NASA is paying SpaceX over $4 billion for its role in the Artemis program, with astronauts in an Orion capsule, launched on NASA’s own Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, transferring to a waiting Starship lander and riding it to and from the moon’s surface.

Starship promises to be billions of dollars cheaper than SLS, with each launch costing about $40 million compared to the estimated cost of $2 billion for SLS. However, the design ethos guiding SLS and Starship is very different.

NASA builds space vehicles to assumed perfection and then tests them to prove it, while SpaceX builds many prototypes and tests them to their limits and often beyond. The hardware in today’s flight was Booster 7 and Starship 24 – serial numbers that identify the vehicles as born-to-die test beds.