• April 21, 2023
  • Jacob Morris
  • 0

On a first flight test, SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploded minutes after launching from its pad. While many see the failure of the colossal next-generation Starship system as a setback, experts say the dramatic loss of the rocket will help accelerate the development of the vehicle.

The explosion of SpaceX’s Starship rocket is an example of the company’s “successful failure” business formula, which serves Elon Musk’s company well, according to aerospace engineering and planetary science experts. Musk, the founder, CEO, and chief engineer of the California-based rocket company, hails the test flight for achieving the major objective of getting the vehicle off the ground while providing a wealth of data that will advance Starship’s development.

The rocket’s fiery disintegration tumbling out of control some 20 miles up in the sky while mounted to its Super Heavy rocket booster before the combined vehicle blew to bits dominated media coverage of the highly anticipated launch. SpaceX acknowledged that several of the Super Heavy’s 33 powerful Raport engines malfunctioned on ascent and that the booster rocket and Starship failed to separate as designed before the ill-fated flight was terminated.

At least two experts in aerospace engineering and planetary science agree that the test flight delivered benefits. Garrett Reisman, an astronautical engineering professor at the University of Southern California and a former NASA astronaut who is also a senior adviser to SpaceX, said the Starship test flight was a hallmark of a SpaceX strategy that sets Musk’s company apart from traditional aerospace companies and even NASA by embracing failure when the consequences of failure are low.

Reisman said SpaceX saves more money in the long run and takes less time to identify and correct engineering flaws by taking more risks in the development process. Rather than keeping “a large team working for years and years and years trying to get it perfect before you even try it,” SpaceX’s approach takes more risks and makes corrections as they go, which accelerates the timeline for transporting people aboard Starship.

Tanya Harrison, a planetary scientist, and fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Outer Space Institute, said clearing the launch tower and ascending through a critical point known as maximum aerodynamic pressure were major feats on the first flight of such a large, complex launch system. “It’s part of the testing process,” she said in an interview. “There are a lot of accidents that happen when you’re trying to design a new rocket. The fact that it launched at all made a lot of people really happy.”

Although NASA is working on a mission to retrieve samples of Martian soil and minerals, Starship will carry back many tons of rock, as well as transport dozens of astronauts and entire lab facilities to and from the moon and Mars. Starship is designed to carry “orders of magnitude” more cargo and people to and from deep space than any existing spacecraft.

SpaceX’s rapid pace of development since its founding in 2002, leading to dozens of commercial missions a year with its workhorse rocket for low-Earth orbit, Falcon 9, has been cited by experts as a reason why it wouldn’t surprise them if humans were on Mars with Starship in the next decade.

Overall, SpaceX’s Starship rocket explosion is a successful failure that serves as a lesson in the company’s business formula, which sets them apart from traditional aerospace companies and even NASA. SpaceX’s approach takes more risks and makes corrections as they go, which accelerates the timeline for transporting people aboard Starship.

Jacob Morris

Journalist writer interested in collecting computer news and modern technology. Worked on many websites and news organizations. You can contact him via e-mail: [email protected]

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