The maiden flight of SpaceX’s massive Starship rocket was cancelled minutes before a planned launch on 17 April. Here’s what happens next:
Why didn’t Starship launch as planned?
While most of the countdown went smoothly, a crucial valve in the spacecraft froze over about 15 minutes before the planned launch. This prevented the first stage of the craft from pressurising properly, which would have made a launch dangerous if SpaceX officials had decided to go through with the attempt. The countdown continued while Starship was loaded up with fuel for what is called a “wet dress rehearsal”, being stopped 10 seconds before zero, so the attempt wasn’t a total loss, but the pressurisation issue will have to be solved before another attempt can be made.
When will the next launch attempt happen?
The date for the next launch attempt hasn’t been released yet, but it will take at least two days to empty the fuel, fix the faulty valve and get Starship ready to fly again. As it stands, 19 April is the next possible launch date.
What is Starship?
The largest and most powerful rocket system ever built. SpaceX says it will eventually ferry astronauts to the moon and Mars. It is 120 metres tall and once in operation will be fully reusable and able to transport up to 100 passengers.
Has Starship launched before?
The rocket has had a long, difficult history of development, such as scrubbed launches and failed landings. One in 2020 saw a smaller, prototype Starship engulfed in flames. The aborted launch attempt on 17 April was the first test of both rocket stages together.