SpaceX is aiming to launch its next-generation Starship rocket on April 20, the company’s second attempt at ground flight after pressurization issues in an early test.
Elon Musk’s closely held company announced the new date in a tweet on Monday, hours after postponing the planned inaugural test flight for the fully assembled vehicle. Minutes before Monday’s scheduled liftoff, SpaceX cleared the flight, citing a “pressurization issue.” Officials had said they would need at least 48 hours before trying again.
Musk flagged a “frozen” pressure valve as an issue that could delay the launch in a tweet earlier in the day. But SpaceX made no reference to the issue in a statement about the new target date for sending Starship aloft.
SpaceX said the new launch window will open at 8:28 a.m. local time in Boca Chica, Texas, where its launch pad is located, and close an hour and two minutes later.
The uncrewed mission is an important step in SpaceX’s plan to send humans into deep space. The company, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., aims to send a large-scale rocket into partial Earth orbit for the first time, paving the way for later missions to the Moon and Mars.
Delays – whether due to weather, technical issues or anything else – are common in space launches.
The latest postponement adds to a timeline that has already been nearly two decades in the making: In early 2005, Musk touted plans for a giant rocket called the “BFR.” Most recently, the company has been testing components of the rocket system in preparation for this launch, its first attempt to reach space.
Musk’s ‘420’ history
The timing of the second attempt on April 20 appears to be a coincidence, although Musk is no stranger to the number “420”, which is associated with marijuana. He famously once claimed to have “secured the money” to take Tesla Inc. private at $420 per share. Testifying earlier this year in a lawsuit stemming from that claim, Musk said, “There’s some karma around 420,” prompting laughter in the courtroom.
Musk serves as the chief executive officer for both SpaceX and Tesla.
Starships were envisioned to bring people – including NASA astronauts – and cargo such as satellites to Earth orbit and beyond. The rocket is more powerful than any previous crewed spacecraft and longer than the Saturn V. The launch vehicle system is also designed to be fully reusable, which SpaceX promises will lower costs.
When the launch attempt occurs, the Super Heavy Booster rocket is expected to separate from Starship after an initial ascent into space and make a controlled dive into the Gulf of Mexico. If all goes according to plan, the Starship spacecraft will continue onward and complete almost one revolution around Earth through space. After this it will land in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii.
Musk tried to temper expectations on Sunday, citing several ways things could go wrong, including likening the engine to a live grenade. On a Twitter audio livestream, the billionaire entrepreneur said he had one big goal for the effort: “Don’t blow up the launchpad.”
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