LOS ANGELES, April 20 (Reuters) – The spectacular explosion of SpaceX’s new Starship rocket minutes after it soared off its launch pad on a first flight test is the latest vivid illustration of a “successful failure” business formula that serves Elon Musk’s company well, experts said on Thursday.
Rather than seeing the fiery disintegration of Musk’s colossal, next-generation Starship system as a setback, experts said the dramatic loss of the rocket ship would help accelerate development of the vehicle.
Planetary scientist Tanya Harrison, a fellow at the University of British Columbia’s Outer Space Institute, said clearing the launch tower and ascending through a critical point known as maximum aerodynamic pressure were major feats on the first flight of such a large, complex launch system.
“It’s part of the testing process,” she said in an interview. “There are a lot of accidents that happen when you’re trying to design a new rocket. The fact that it launched at all made a lot of people really happy.”
She said the risks of a single flight test were small in comparison to the ambitious gains at stake.
“This is the biggest rocket that humanity has tried to build,” she said, adding that it is designed to carry “orders of magnitude” more cargo and people to and from deep space than any existing spacecraft.
Whereas NASA is working on a mission to retrieve samples of Martian soil and minerals measured in kilograms being collected by the Mars Perseverance rover, Starship will carry back many tons of rock, as well transport dozens of astronauts and entire lab facilities to and from the moon and Mars, Harrison said.
Read more: SpaceX rocket explosion illustrates Elon Musk’s ‘successful failure’ formula by Steve Gorman and Arlene Eiras