Let the Scoffers Scoff

SpaceX’s “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” Moves Success Forward

On Thursday, 20 April, 8:33 a.m. (CT), the most powerful rocket ever built hurtled skywards from Elon Musk’s Boca Chica Starbase. A focused fireball of flame from 33 methyl lox Raptor engines lifted the 400-foot, fully integrated Starship launch vehicle, its massive bulk accelerating to 1,243 mph in less than 90 seconds.

Ideally, the “Super Heavy” first stage would have cut main engines, executed a “boost back burn” and SpaceX’s signature “belly flop” maneuver before descending vertically to Earth and simulating a vertical landing into the Gulf of Mexico. On separation, the Starship second stage would have fired up its six Raptor engines for a 6-minute burn, and skirted Earth orbit for slightly less than one hour, before executing a non-recoverable landing in the water 93 miles off the coast of Hawaii.


The two stages failed to separate, and the Super Heavy first stage, still locked to its Starship second stage, tumbled back earthwards and self-destructed in a massive and spectacular “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” (RUD).


Like the uncomfortably large numbers of SpaceX “competitors,” Starship critics, and Elon Musk-haters, the SpaceX staff cheered as the integrated stack spun out of control and exploded. Actually, the SpaceX employees never stopped cheering each successive landmark step from fueling, to ten-second count down, to booster ignition, MaxQ, and up and on to the colorful and explosive end.

Caustic headlines amplified the bias of “mainstream media.” The Associated Press ran, “SpaceX Giant Rocket Explodes Minutes After Launch from Texas.” CNN ran, “SpaceX Rocket Lifts Off for Inaugural Test Flight but Explodes Midair.” CBS went with, “SpaceX Starship Rocket Launch Ends in Explosion.” The late night “comedians” got graphic, with Stephen Colbert joking about Elon Musk’s penis, Jimmy Fallon comparing the launch to DeSantis’s political campaign (took off fast and then exploded), and Jimmy Kimmel tweeting a giant bong superimposed over footage of the Starship launch. Only NPR came close to getting it right with, “Why SpaceX staff Cheered When the Starship Rocket Exploded.”

Something Ventured, Something Gained

SpaceX Quality Systems Engineering Manager Kate Tyson explained it this way: “The purpose for today’s main milestone is to clear the [launching] pad,” said Tice. “Every milestone beyond that is a bonus. The further we fly, the more data we can collect.”

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted out, “With great risk comes great reward. Looking forward to all that SpaceX learns for the next flight test—and beyond.”

Elon Musk is a bit more succinct with his “Test early and test often,” mantra.

In July 2019 SpaceX “flew” a technology testbed that looked like a rural water tank with legs and feet and was powered by a single methyl lox Raptor engine. The “Star Hopper” prototype ascended 66 feet and landed vertically. Successive flights achieved almost 500 feet, with lateral maneuvers across all compass axes.

One and a half years later, SpaceX flew Starship prototype Serial Number (SN) 8 to an altitude of almost eight miles, executed its signature “belly flop” maneuver, and descended vertically for a landing (and RUD). Five months later, in May of 2021, SN 15 flew to apogee, maneuvered back to Boca Chica, and landed vertically.

In less than two years after the successful landing of SN 15, SpaceX designed, built, and tested its Super Heavy booster, with twice the thrust of an Atlas V rocket and the most powerful rocket in world. The integrated Starship system—Super Heavy booster and Starship second stage—hurtled skywards, validating basic design successes and revealing flaws and shortfalls for future correction.

So, what if it exploded? Minutes after Star Command Center triggered the Inflight Termination Systems for both booster and second stage, SpaceX Operations Engineer Siva Bharadvaj put it all in perspective. “With a test like this success comes from what we learned and we learned a tremendous amount,” said Bharadvaj. “Today’s test is the first of many as we work towards transitioning Starship from a developmental to an operational program.”

Critics Gonna Criticize

But critics don’t get it. They refuse to get it. This wasn’t some over-priced Atlas V with a couple of shuttle-era solid boosters strapped to it, trying to launch a super-sized Apollo-style capsule with three to four astronauts on a one-time, “use once and throw away” mission. This was a technology demonstration for a fully reusable mega-rocket booster and a fully reusable spaceship capable of transporting up to 100 humans, 150 metric tons of cargo, or a mixture of the two.

Onward and Upward

And that’s the point.

The SpaceX vision of making mankind an interplanetary species will iterate through ISS and possibly Gateway resupply missions, Lunar landings and resupply missions, and eventually missions to colonize Mars. This will require a fleet of Starships configured as fuel tankers to “top off” cargo and personnel transports to and from increasingly complex and distant missions. It will require Starships configured to “shuttle” personnel and equipment back and forth from the Earth to various orbits, and Starships configured to land on and launch from the near vacuum of the Lunar surface and the low gravity of Mars.

This doesn’t have to be a matter of “if,” but rather of “when.”

Last year, SpaceX built four Starship Super Heavy boosters, five Starships, and 200 Raptor engines. This year they are on target with five Super Heavy boosters and eight Starship vehicles, and they are scaling up from there.  This last week’s launch can be followed in a few short months with a second launch of a fully integrated two-stage Starship that incorporates current “lessons learned.”

Let the scoffers scoff. Let malignant maligners malign.

Last week’s “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly” of the first fully integrated Starship technology demonstration was an unqualified success. It was another step forward in humanity’s reach for the stars.

Image credit: SpaceX.

has traveled extensively in Africa, Asia, Europe, the Caribbean and the South Seas – winning hearts and minds in and out of uniform – federal, military, and freelance.  Now working exclusively freelance, he is fluent in German and English, with survival skills in French, Haitian Creole, Russian, Standard Arabic, Swahili and Samoan.

Get SALVO blog posts in your inbox!
Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/post/let-the-scoffers-scoff


Bioethics icon Bioethics Philosophy icon Philosophy Media icon Media Transhumanism icon Transhumanism Scientism icon Scientism Euthanasia icon Euthanasia Porn icon Porn Marriage & Family icon Marriage & Family Race icon Race Abortion icon Abortion Education icon Education Civilization icon Civilization Feminism icon Feminism Religion icon Religion Technology icon Technology LGBTQ+ icon LGBTQ+ Sex icon Sex College Life icon College Life Culture icon Culture Intelligent Design icon Intelligent Design

Welcome, friend.
to read every article [or subscribe.]