- Elon Musk expects SpaceX to spend about $2 billion developing its Starship rocket this year, as the company pushes to build on its first launch earlier this month.
- “My expectation for the next flight is to reach orbit,” Musk said Saturday.
- The Starship flight touched down on the launchpad and achieved several milestones, but Musk provided more details on the various problems the rocket suffered.
The SpaceX Starship departs from the launchpad during a test flight from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on April 20, 2023.
Patrick T. Fallon | Afp | Getty Images
Elon Musk expects SpaceX to spend about $2 billion developing its Starship rocket this year, as the company pushes to build on its first launch earlier this month.
“My expectation for the next flight is to reach orbit,” Musk said, speaking in a Twitter Spaces discussion on Saturday.
While SpaceX conducts secondary rounds about twice a year, to give employees and other company shareholders a chance to sell stock, Musk said the company “doesn’t anticipate the need to raise funding” to further strengthen the Starship program and its other ventures.
“To my knowledge, we don’t need to raise incremental funding for SpaceX,” Musk said.
As for the dramatic first fully stacked launch of the Starship rocket on April 20,” said the SpaceX CEO, “The outcome was almost what I expected, and maybe slightly exceeded my expectations.”
SpaceX has several more prototypes in various stages of assembly and aims to launch its next attempt at reaching space using an ascending rocket within months.
“The purpose of these missions is just information. Like, we don’t have any payload or anything — it’s just to learn as much as possible,” Musk said.
He put the probability of reaching orbit with a Starship flight this year at “probably” 80%, but maintained that he thinks there is a “100% chance of reaching orbit within 12 months.”
Starship launched for the first time on its Super Heavy booster from Texas on April 20, 2023.
The Starship flight touched down on the launchpad and achieved several milestones, but Musk provided more details on the various problems the rocket suffered.
The rocket flew with only 30 of the 33 Raptor engines igniting the base of the Super Heavy booster. Musk said that SpaceX “chose not to start” the three engines, because they were not “healthy enough to carry them through full thrust. The Starship slid sideways from the launchpad as it ascended into the sky, which Musk that “due to engine failures. “
About 27 seconds into the flight, SpaceX “lost communication” with another engine — an incident that happened “with some kind of energetic event” that removed the heat shield around some of the other engines. “Things really hit the fan” around 85 seconds into launch, when SpaceX lost “thrust vector control” — or the ability to steer the rocket.
Additionally, Musk reported that it took about 40 seconds for the rocket’s AFTS (Autonomous Flight Termination System), which destroys the vehicle in the event it flies off course, which SpaceX will need to correct before the next launch attempt .
The strongest part of the rocket’s performance is how well it holds together, including passing a launch milestone called “Max Q,” or the moment when the rocket’s atmospheric pressure is at its strongest.
“The vehicle’s structural margins appear to be better than we expected, as we can tell from the vehicle actually doing somersaults toward the end and staying intact,” Musk said.
Looking forward, Musk said SpaceX has “made a lot of improvements” to future prototypes. The company needs to make sure “we don’t lose thrust vector control” on the next launch.
Members of the public walk through a debris field on the launch pad on April 22, 2023, after the SpaceX Starship took off on April 20 for a flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.
Patrick T. Fallon | Afp | Getty Images
Back on the ground, Musk said the booster created a “rock tornado” under the rocket as it lifted off. While SpaceX did not see “evidence that the rock tornado actually damaged the engines or heat shields in a material way,” Musk said the company “certainly did not expect” to damage the launch pad’s concrete and create a crater after it.
“One of the more plausible explanations is that … we may have compressed the sand under the concrete to such a degree that the concrete effectively buckled and then cracked,” Musk said.
A priority for the next flight is to start the 33 Raptor engines “quicker and faster down the pad,” Musk said. It took about five seconds for SpaceX to start the engines and launch the rocket, which Musk noted was “a really long time to blow up the pad.” The company aims to cut that time in half for the next attempt.
A cloud of dust rises beneath the Starship as the rocket launches its Super Heavy booster from Texas on April 20, 2023.
The result images showed the violent results of the Super Heavy booster engines. A report from the US Fish and Wildlife Service said the launch hurled concrete and metal “thousands of feet” and created a cloud of dust and crushed concrete that fell 6.5 miles from the site. of launch.
On Saturday, Musk said “the damage to the pad is really minor” and should be “fixed quickly.” He estimated the necessary repairs mean SpaceX will “probably be ready to launch in six to eight weeks.” SpaceX will replace some of the propellant tanks near the launchpad. The 500-foot-tall tower is “in good shape,” with “no significant damage” though it was hit by “some pretty big chunks of concrete.”
Musk believes the biggest obstacle to flying again is “probably re-qualification” of the AFTS that destroyed the rocket, because it “exploded too long” to explode.
SpaceX is moving forward with plans to place steel plates, cooled by a water system, under the launch tower for the next Starship rocket.
Environmental activists and researchers raised alarms about the cloud of crushed concrete and dust created by the launch. Musk argued that the debris was “not toxic at all,” but said that “we don’t want to do that again.”
“To the best of our knowledge there hasn’t been any significant damage to the environment that we’re aware of,” Musk said.