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SpaceX: What you need to know about Elon Musk's Starship launch

SpaceX: What you need to know about Elon Musk's Starship launch

After a failed first attempt, Elon Musk is shooting for the stars again.

You would have to live on Mars to not know who Elon Musk is - and if you like to keep tabs on what his aerospace company, SpaceX, is up to, then you’re probably aware it has something pretty momentous up its sleeve.

SpaceX is gearing up for yet another launch, setting the stage at the Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Scheduled for launch this weekend, the mission - named Starship - is the second flight test after a failed attempt to reach space back in April, when the rocket and spacecraft blasted off only to tumble out of control moments later and explode.

While SpaceX is confident there won’t be a repeat of its last disaster, no one knows for sure what will happen. Regardless, it’s a must-watch, whether you’re a space enthusiast, a tech aficionado, or simply curious about the future of space exploration.


So, if you want to stay up to date with this potentially historic event, we’ve got you: here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming SpaceX launch and Musk’s relentless pursuit for the stars.

What is the SpaceX Starship?

The Starship rocket towers at an astonishing 400 feet. Designed for heavy-lift missions, the monster steel structure dwarfs NASA's equivalent Space Launch System (SLS) and is said to be more powerful, producing a whopping 17 million pounds of thrust at lift-off thanks to the Super Heavy booster. By comparison, Nasa’s most powerful configuration produces 9.5 million.

SpaceX Starship size comparison (PA Graphics)
SpaceX Starship size comparison (PA Graphics)

In contrast to NASA's reliance on liquid hydrogen and oxygen, the Starship runs on a slightly greener fuel - a combination of liquid methane and oxygen, which amounts to about 10 million pounds. This allows for easier storage at less extreme temperatures, reducing the need for heavy insulation and minimizing the risk of leaks that often challenge NASA's launches.

If tests prove successful, SpaceX is hoping to use the Starship to take astronauts to the moon - and even Mars.

What happened at the first launch?

The April launch fell short of reaching space when the rocket dramatically exploded around 24 miles above the Gulf of Mexico - only four or so minutes after lift-off.

SpaceX said the accident occurred due to the rocket failing to detach from its booster, which led to it flipping during its descent. The malfunction was the result of several engines not firing, prompting the activation of the self-destruct system for both the booster and ship, and resulting in debris falling into the ocean.

It was later revealed that a fuel leak in the booster's aft end ignited a fire, cutting off communication with the main flight computer.

Alain Jocard
Alain Jocard

"This led to a loss of communications to the majority of booster engines and, ultimately, control of the vehicle,” the company said in a statement. "SpaceX has since implemented leak mitigations and improved testing on both engine and booster hardware."

When is the launch?

Having received its launch license, SpaceX will be catapulting its second Starship rocketship into the skies on Saturday, November 18. The company has a 20-minute test window, which will open at 8am EST (5am PST and 1pm GMT).

However, as with any space mission, the launch time could change at any given moment - so be sure to keep checking the official SpaceX Launches page for updates.

How can I watch it?

SpaceX’s official website will be streaming the launch live, meaning you can join in from the comfort of your web browser. Head here to see how the event unfolds. Those tuning in now will get a preview of the rocket and the innovative engineering that’s gone into it.

Featured Image Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images/Leon Neal/Getty Images