SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, has announced plans for the company to spend around $2 billion on its Starship rocket development this year. Despite this large investment, Musk said that SpaceX does not anticipate needing to raise funding to further bolster the Starship program and its other ventures, as they are not currently in need of incremental funding. The company is pushing to build on its first launch earlier this month, with Musk stating that his expectation for the next flight would be to reach orbit. While the goal of these missions is just to gain information, Musk puts the probability of reaching orbit with a Starship flight this year at “probably” 80%, but espouses that he thinks there is a “100% chance of reaching orbit within 12 months.” SpaceX has multiple further prototypes in various stages of assembly and aims to launch the next attempt at reaching space with the towering rocket within a few months.
Challenges Encountered During First Launch
Although the first Starship flight achieved several milestones, there were also a variety of problems that the rocket suffered. The rocket took off with only 33 of the 30 Raptor engines ignited at the base of the Super Heavy booster. Musk said SpaceX “chose not to start” three engines, as they were not “healthy enough to bring them to full thrust.” Starship slid laterally off the launchpad as it climbed into the sky, which Musk said was “because of the engine failures.” About 27 seconds into the flight, SpaceX “lost communications” with another engine — an incident that happened “with some kind of energetic event” that removed the heat shield around several other engines. “Things really hit the fan” around 85 seconds into the 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 to kick in, which SpaceX will need to correct before the next launch attempt.
Looking forward, Musk said SpaceX has “made so many improvements” to future prototypes. The company needs to ensure “that we don’t lose thrust vector control” with the next launch. The priority for the next flight will be starting the 33 Raptor engines “faster and get off the pad faster,” Musk said. SpaceX is moving forward with a plan to put steel plates, which will be cooled by a water system, underneath the launch tower for the next Starship rocket. Environmental activists and researchers have raised alarms about the cloud of pulverized concrete and dust that the launch created. Musk argued that the debris was “not toxic at all,” but said that “we don’t want to do that again.”
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