Moon Mission: NASA is afraid that SpaceX's Starship will explode
As Elon Musk-owned SpaceX gears up to launch its giant 'Starship' rocket, NASA has some bad feelings about it. The space agency is worried that an explosion of the rocket on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center might cut off the US from the International Space Station (ISS). Starship will make its first orbital flight in July, Musk had announced on Twitter.
Why does this story matter?
- Since 1972, no human being has set foot on the lunar surface. Last year, NASA picked SpaceX's Starship for the agency's first launch of US astronauts to the moon after the Apollo 17.
- For SpaceX, Starship is more than the moon. It is the company's ticket to interplanetary missions and a future on Mars.
- It needs to be seen how SpaceX alleviates NASA's fears.
What is NASA worried about?
SpaceX plans to launch the Starship from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA fears that an explosion of the rocket might cause damage to the Launch Complex 39A, which is the only pad approved to launch SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsules. NASA is dependent on the launch pad to ferry its astronauts to the International Space Station.
Is NASA's fear legitimate?
SpaceX is working on a launch pad for Starship's first flight only a few hundred feet away from the Launch Complex 39A. If the company's previous attempts to flight test early Starship prototypes are anything to go by, an explosion is not completely out of the picture. Damage to Launch Complex 39A will cut off NASA's sole means to launch astronauts to the ISS.
Starship weighs 5,000 tons when fully stacked
The Starship has been portrayed as humanity's ticket to Mars. The rocket has two parts - the Super Heavy booster at the bottom with 33 engines and the Starship spacecraft that will separate once the rocket leaves Earth's gravity. When fully stacked, the rocket weighs 5,000 tons and stands 120m tall. The company claims that it will be the most powerful rocket ever.
SpaceX still hasn't received a license for its 'Starbase'
A launch from Cape Canaveral was not part of SpaceX's plans. It had planned to use its launch and development site called 'Starbase' at Boca Chica, Texas. However, the site has been mired in environment-related controversies. The Federal Aviation Administration has recently given an almost clean chit to the site, but to receive a license, it needs to make several changes.