Elon Musk has revealed new details about the next major test flight for SpaceX’s Mars-bound Starship rocket, which he claims is ready to launch.
SpaceX is still awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch the biggest rocket ever built, with the US regulators currently undertaking a “mishap investigation” for the previous Starship launch in April.
The 400-foot-tall (121 metre) rocket exploded over the Gulf of Mexico just three minutes into a planned 90 minute flight on 20 April, breaking up into pieces over the water.
An inadequate launchpad was also destroyed by Starship’s huge engines, blasting concrete chunks and metal shards across a 700-acre area.
The SpaceX boss had predicted that the rocket would explode, saying ahead of the attempt: “I am not saying it will get to orbit but I am guaranteeing excitement.”
The tech billionaire is more hopeful for the latest launch attempt, having made several key changes to how it operates.
“We are doing a new staging technique called hot staging where you light the upper stage engines while the booster stage is still firing,” Mr Musk told the All-In Podcast this week.
This is the most efficient way to do stage separation of a rocket going to orbit but we did not try that on the last mission... I think, I hope, we have a well over 50 per cent chance of getting through stage separation, and maybe a close to 50 per cent chance of getting to orbit if the hot staging separation method works.
“I’d say it’s above 50 per cent chance of getting to orbit this time, whereas previously I said below 50.”
Once in orbit, Starship will travel around the planet before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean just north of Hawaii.
The Starship rocket is currently fully stacked at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas, though it is not clear how long the private space firm will have to wait before receiving FAA approval.
“The SpaceX Starship mishap investigation remains open,” the FAA said in a statement last week.
“The FAA will not authorise another Starship launch until SpaceX implements the corrective actions identified during the mishap investigation and demonstrates compliance with all the regulatory requirements of the licence modification process.”