Starship launch: SpaceX postpones biggest ever rocket launch amid ‘pressurisation issue’

Company must wait at least 48 hours until it can launch again

Andrew Griffin
Monday 17 April 2023 21:36 BST

SpaceX Starship: Launch of world’s biggest rocket delayed due to frozen valve

Elon Musk’s private space company SpaceX postponed the launch of its giant Starship rocket on Monday after a last-minute pressurisation problem cropped up during fuelling.

The firm had planned to fly the nearly 400ft Starship rocket from the southern tip of Texas, near the Mexican border.

SpaceX instead treated the postponed launch as a “wet dress rehearsal”, allowing it to practise loading up the rocket as if it were really launching.

Despite the pressurisation problem, SpaceX continued the countdown until 40 seconds from launch.

The company will now have to wait at least 48 hours until it can launch again. The date of its second attempt will be announced on Twitter.

“Learned a lot today, now offloading propellant, retrying in a few days,” Mr Musk tweeted after the launch was cancelled.

The stainless steel Starship is 120m tall, has 33 engines and 16.7 million pounds of thrust. SpaceX says the craft will be able to carry up to 100 people on interplanetary flights.

It will also enable the delivery of satellites and the development of a moon base, and point-to-point transport on Earth – allowing travel to anywhere in the world in one hour or less.

The booster section of the Starship rocket, Super Heavy, is designed to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and land back at the launch site. However, the test flight on Monday would have seen it make a water landing.

Commenting ahead of the launch, British astronaut Tim Peake said: “SpaceX really is thinking big with Starship. This is the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built.

“But its ambition goes way beyond its gargantuan size: it is hoped that the rocket will herald a new era of deep space exploration, unlocking the potential for humans to visit other planets. This programme could be the launchpad for hugely exciting scientific research.

“I’m convinced that collaboration with commercial operators like SpaceX is vital for pushing the boundaries and enabling this new era of deep space exploration.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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