This is a very expensive gamble indeed.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is optimistic that his company's mammoth Starship rocket won't explode again the next time he attempts to launch it into orbit — but not saying it won't, either.
During a teleconference appearance at a spaceflight convention in Azerbaijan this week, Musk didn't say when, exactly, the next Starship test launch will be, but he did appear to hedge his bets on whether it'll end in yet another fireball.
"We think it will work, but we aren't sure if it will work," he told the host of the International Aeronautics Convention.
Back in April, SpaceX finally undertook its first orbital flight test of the multi-billion-dollar Starship, which had been in the works for more than a decade. But it blew up on April 20 — when else? — after its self-destruct mechanism destroyed both stages of the rocket (some experts, though, have insisted it was a success all the same.)
Since that explosive first attempt, it's been unclear when SpaceX would try again. In early May, Musk said the company could be ready for a second Starship launch in as few as six to eight weeks, but as with many of his promised timelines, that clearly didn't happen. Though the spaceflight company's bombastic CEO keeps saying he's ready to relaunch, federal regulators — who were not at all happy with the first attempt — have cautioned SpaceX to pump the breaks while they complete their investigations.
To correct the mishaps of the first Starship launch, Musk said at the IAF conference that SpaceX is developing a "hot stage" system that will ignite the rocket's second stage before it separates from the first.
"I'd say that's the riskiest part of the flight," the South African-born billionaire said. "If the engines light and the ship doesn't blow itself up during staging, then I think we've got a decent chance of reaching orbit."
Those odds probably wouldn't work well in Vegas or by NASA's standards, but in Musk's world, a "decent" shot is apparently good enough to bet on.
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