SpaceX threatened with arrests as local authorities in Texas warn it may have committed a crime by using private security guards to block public roads

A gated entrance by a prototype of SpaceX's Starship spacecraft is seen at the company's Texas launch facility on September 28, 2019 in Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas.
SpaceX has had repeated run-ins with local authorities and residents stemming from its spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas.

  • Texas officials warned SpaceX it may have committed crimes by closing public roads, KGRW reported.
  • In a letter, Cameron County DA Louis Saenz accused SpaceX of knowingly ignoring previous warnings.
  • Saenz called the conduct “unacceptable” and threatened arrests for future violations.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Local authorities have accused SpaceX of violating the law by attempting to block access to public roads around its spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas, according to KGRW reporter Rudy Mireles.

SpaceX’s security staff may have broken Texas laws against obstructing public roads and impersonating a public official, Class B misdemeanor and third-degree felony violations, respectively, Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz wrote in a letter to SpaceX, according to Mireles.

Saenz warned SpaceX that future violations could result in individual SpaceX employees or contractors being arrested as well as the company facing criminal prosecution, according to the letter.

Neither SpaceX nor Cameron County responded to a request for comment on this story.

When members of Saenz’s staff went to investigate a complaint that SpaceX had denied public access to two county roads near State Highway 4, a SpaceX security guard “immediately approached, stopped, and detained” them, and ordered them to return to the highway, according to the letter Mireles obtained.

Saenz’s staff then warned the SpaceX guard Cameron County authorities hadn’t given SpaceX permission to close the road, according to the letter.

“This conduct is unacceptable. And I strongly believe you, Mr. Patel, and Space-X, also knew it was unacceptable,” Saenz wrote, according to Mireles, referring to SpaceX senior director of starship operations, Shyamal Patel, to whom the letter was addressed.

Saenz wrote Cameron County had separately in April warned SpaceX about similar conduct, according to Mireles.

Saenz also wrote that neither the security guard, who was wearing a bulletproof vest, nor SpaceX’s head of security for the facility, appeared to have proper security licenses, and asked SpaceX to confirm whether security staff are properly licensed and whether its security guards are armed.

SpaceX, which first bought land in Boca Chica in 2012, has frequently clashed with local officials and residents as it has attempted to build out its rocket facility, according to The Wall Street Journal, while some told Insider’s Kate Duffy they’re welcoming the economic boom it has created.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX is causing a rift between Brownsville residents. Some say it’s shattering the lives of locals but others are welcoming the economic boom its created.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gives a presentation on his Starship rocket at their Boca Chica spaceport launch facility.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gives a presentation on his Starship rocket at their Boca Chica spaceport launch facility.

  • Brownsville residents are divided as SpaceX sets up its main launch facilities close to the area.
  • Some locals are excited for Elon Musk to create job opportunities and pump money into the city.
  • Others are concerned SpaceX will displace locals, hike prices, and destroy the nature reserves.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Residents of Brownsville, a small city in Texas, are divided. Their town is now home to SpaceX’s rocket-production facilities, which only promises to grow bigger.

Some locals told Insider they’re at their wits’ end with SpaceX as the aerospace company sets off explosions and pushes locals out of the area. But others see it as a positive impact on the economy and residents’ wellbeing.

Brownsville, which lies 20 miles west of SpaceX’s launch facilities on the Gulf Coast, is known for being one of the poorest areas in the US. The 300,000-person city also has a very high unemployment rate.

When SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted at the end of March that he was donating $30 million to Brownsville – $20 million to schools and $10 million for revitalization – it split the city.

Musk also announced that he was building a new city called Starbase at SpaceX’s launch facilities which would be “much larger” than Boca Chica Village, where the company is developing its Starship rocket.

Brownsville’s mayor Trey Mendez was surprised at Musk’s announcement and said in an interview with KSAT 12 it was “exciting” that the community could have the chance to become the face of “space exploration and innovation.”

Mendez said he hoped Musk’s capital would help “accelerate the progress [in Brownsville] even more.”

But there is division between those living in the south Texas city. Some are concerned that SpaceX’s developments will be devastating for the people, nature, and ecosystems there. Others welcome the job opportunities, economic prosperity, and modernization that Musk’s company could bring to the town.

SpaceX didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Dangerous explosions

Every time a rocket blows up on the launchpad, it hurls debris into the nearby nature sanctuaries in the area. SpaceX has witnessed four out of five of its Starship prototypes explode, meaning that metals and pieces of machinery are lying in areas that have never been disturbed before.

“These ecosystems are our community’s lifeblood,” said Bekah Hinojosa, resident of Brownsville and member of Another Gulf is Possible, an organization working on environmental issues along the southern Gulf Coast.

“SpaceX explosions are littering our ecosystems, home to the endangered ocelot, aplomado falcon, and numerous migratory birds,” she said.

spacex starship explosion debris
Pieces of debris are scattered near Boca Chica, Texas, after the explosion of an uncrewed prototype of SpaceX’s Starship rocket, March 31, 2021.

Xandra Treviño is a member of the art collective Las Imaginistas. It’s an initiative that aims to connect with officials and lower-income residents in the Rio Grande Valley, where Brownsville is situated, to improve quality of life. As a resident, she told Insider that she’s already seeing the negative effects of SpaceX in the area.

“Any SpaceX expansion would be occupying more land considered sacred to the local indigenous Carrizo Comecrudo tribe,” Treviño said, who lives in the area.

Residents face disruption every time they’re told to leave their homes before a SpaceX launch, she added.

SpaceX jobs aren’t for the locals

In March, Musk encouraged people to move to the Brownsville area, saying that SpaceX needs specific jobs in engineering, tech, and other sectors.

Residents felt that Musk’s Twitter callout, however, wasn’t directed at them, but instead anyone in the US who wanted a career at SpaceX.

Claudia Michelle Serrano, a digital content coordinator for Las Imaginistas, who lives in Brownsville told Insider that Musk’s job proposals via Twitter were offered on a national level to those interested in working for the space company.

“The jobs being created aren’t for us,” she said. “There is zero transparency on the jobs SpaceX created locally.”

Jobs in Brownsville are low-wage, meaning that residents on those salaries won’t be able to keep up with increasing costs in the city, according to Serrano.

sn11 starship prototype spacex boca chica spadre
Spectators gather to watch SpaceX roll out the SN11 prototype.

Christine Leal, a 17-year-old high school student living in the Rio Grande Valley, told Insider that although her dream is to work for SpaceX after studying engineering at university, she’s worried about “the immense danger,” which the company will bring to the area.

Pulling in engineers from outside of the valley will lead residents to be financially disadvantaged and pushed out of their homes, she said. “There’s a large probability that [Musk] will further develop Brownsville, but neglect the locals who were already here.”

Leal said although the company’s project will be amazing for the local economy, “Elon and SpaceX need to make sure that locals have a role in that development and don’t push us aside. If he doesn’t, then we risk losing our culture, land, customs, and traditions.”

SpaceX could drive residents out of Brownsville

Low-income residents could be forced to leave their homes due to spiking prices caused by SpaceX’s presence in the area, locals told Insider.

Musk announced the construction of SpaceX’s facilities in 2014. Since then, the cost of living in the area has gradually increased as more people from across the US flock to Brownsville to work for the billionaire.

If the city of Starbase goes ahead, the small village and its leaders would have access to eminent domain, which could let them legally force holdouts to sell their homes, Insider reported May 8.

elon musk spacex south texas launch site sign boca chica groundbreaking event september 2014 GettyImages 539719466 edited
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk visited Boca Chica Beach in South Texas to break ground on a new spaceport and launch site on September 22, 2014.

“The biggest concern is displacement,” said Serrano. “Our home could be lost with rapidly increasing taxes or others who rent will be priced out.”

Investors have been rushing to Brownsville to buy homes, sending house prices rocketing, Insider reported in April. But many residents aren’t able to afford these prices, leaving them with a tough decision of whether to stay in the area or not.

Serrano said this could have a huge impact on the Buena Vida area of downtown Brownsville, a historically immigrant and Spanish speaking area.

Many of the locals who spoke to Insider believe the local leaders have a lot to answer for. Freddy Jimenez, editor of media platform Trucha, told us the leaders of Cameron County and City of Brownsville don’t represent the everyday people living in the area as they look to profit from the space company’s developments. Conversations between the representatives and SpaceX have been kept under the wraps, he added.

“Working people, community members, indigenous people, and the beautiful ecology of the region is being put at risk and exploited,” Jimenez said. “Shame on our local leaders and shame on the interests they serve.”

SpaceX controls beach access and fishing

Robert Avitia, who was born and raised in Brownsville, still lives in the city where he runs his business. He thinks that SpaceX has done wonders by pumping more money into the area.

Although Avitia believes there are more positives than negatives with Musk coming to Brownsville, he agrees that rocket debris in the wildlife sanctuaries and the closing off of Boca Chica beach are serious issues in the community.

Boca Chica beach was a place where people could hang out whenever they wanted, Avitia told Insider.

sn10 starship
The SN10 lands in one piece on SpaceX’s Boca Chica landing pad, in this screengrab from the test flight livestream.

“Now it’s controlled. You can’t get in and out whenever you want to. It’s only when they allow it, based on what’s happening at SpaceX,” he said.

The beach was a big part of the culture in the area. Avitia recalled the fond memories he had with his father of coming down to the beach to fish. Now, SpaceX sometimes doesn’t allow people to fish as it’s too close to the facilities.

Hinojosa, who raised concerns about rocket litter earlier in this report, also said SpaceX closing off the beach access for locals threatens people’s livelihoods by preventing people from fishing and feeding their families, and enjoying the beach.

Some residents see the positive side

But Avitia is one of the many people who welcome SpaceX’s expansion in Brownsville. Beforehand, the city was a “ghost town” with little to offer, he said. Now, it’s become more modern as new restaurants and businesses pop up on the streets, the tourism sector grows, and highways are updated he added.

“There is division here,” he said. “You have people that are just comfortable and don’t want to change… I hate to say this but the ones that want to stay comfortable are going to lose, they’re going to miss out.”

Restricting access to the beach and fishing comes with change, said Avitia.

“[Musk] donating money was like him saying, “Hey, I’m here to help. I’m not here to take away. I’m here to help.” And I truly believe he’s here to help,” he added.

Four other people who spoke to Insider said they were also excited about Brownsville being the home of SpaceX.

One of them, Rudy Guzman, a lifelong resident of Brownsville, told Insider that SpaceX is exactly what the city needs “to attract outside investors and grow our local economy.” Others said it would motivate children and make a huge improvement to education.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon Musk’s SpaceX acts ‘like they already own everything’ as the company reportedly buys up homes in a Texas village, preventing access to public roads and beaches

starship sn9 prototype spacex boca chica texas
The SN9 during static-fire testing in Boca Chica, Texas, on January 13, 2021.

  • Residents of Boca Chica, Texas, told the Wall Street Journal SpaceX acts like it owns “everything” in their village.
  • Several told the Wall Street Journal the company has attempted to buy their homes for offers they consider unfair.
  • Musk has said he wants to incorporate the village as part of a city called Starbase, Texas.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Residents of Boca Chica, Texas, a small village that sits just north of the US border with Mexico, say that Elon Musk’s company SpaceX “act like they already own everything” in the area around the site it uses to launch and test rockets.

There are 14 residents of Boca Chica who are not affiliated with SpaceX, according to a Wall Street Journal report. SpaceX has bought at least 112 parcels of land in Boca Chica, according to the report published Friday in the Wall Street Journal.

Seven people who spoke to the WSJ said they wanted more money from SpaceX and Musk to sell their properties than the company had offered them. David Finlay, the senior director of finance at SpaceX, told one couple it would explore a “different route” if they refused to sell their home willingly, the report said.

Read more: Tesla quickly went from tiny startup to world’s most valuable carmaker. These 13 leaders control its future.

He told another couple the company would “pursue alternative approaches” if they rejected SpaceX’s offer, according to the report.

SpaceX did not return Insider’s request for comment Saturday on the WSJ report.

Musk in March said he was interested in incorporating the area as Starbase, Texas. To incorporate the village as a town, SpaceX would need to show that there were at least 200 inhabitants, according to the WSJ.

“Please consider moving to Starbase or greater Brownsville/South Padre area in Texas & encourage friends to do so!” Musk said in one tweet. “SpaceX’s hiring needs for engineers, technicians, builders & essential support personnel of all kinds are growing rapidly.”

If successful, the town and its leaders would have access to eminent domain, which could allow them to legally force holdouts to sell their homes.

“They act like they already own everything, including you and your house,” Cheryl Stevens told the Wall Street Journal. She said she sold her home to the company in October last year because she could no longer deal with living near the launch site.

When launches don’t go according to plan, residents who remain told the outlet they experience broken windows, debris, and brush fires. While the company offers to put up residents in hotels in South Padre Island, a nearby resort town, residents told the WSJ that they have to pay for their own gas for the 40-mile trip.

Residents also complained about the company’s closure of state Highway 4 “often with confusing and inadequate prior notifications and last-minute changes and revocations,” according to the report.

State lawmakers in Texas in 2013 passed legislation allowing officials in Cameron County, where Boca Chica is located, to close public beach access for SpaceX launch activity, according to the report.

Closing the road prevents residents from accessing 8 miles of beach, National Wildlife Refuge, and land in a state park, the WSJ reported. The highway is the only road that leads to the village, according to the report.

Residents told the WSJ they felt that county officials were working with SpaceX to get them to leave their properties.

“We want SpaceX to succeed, but not at the expense of the community,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño told the WSJ, denying those accusations. “If they think they’ll be able to take over the highway or the beach, they’re mistaken.”

Read the full report at the Wall Street Journal.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX’s high-flying Starship prototype has finally landed successfully – a big step towards Elon Musk’s reusable mega-rocket

spacex starship sn15 landing success happy elon musk
The SN15 prototype stuck the landing (left), a big step towards becoming the reusable rocket Elon Musk (right) wants it to be.

On Wednesday, SpaceX sent the latest prototype of its mega-rocket system roaring six miles above Texas, its fifth such launch since December.

SpaceX is no stranger to Starship launches, but unlike the last four attempts, this prototype landed smoothly, without blowing up during its first 15 minutes back on Earth. A previous prototype exploded 10 minutes after landing, after a fire burning around its skirt wouldn’t go out. But this time, the fire at the prototype’s feet appeared to be extinguished.

“Starship landing nominal!” Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, CEO, and chief engineer, declared on Twitter.

This version of the spaceship, called Starship serial No. 15, or SN15, followed the same trajectory as its predecessors. The 16-story rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. As it approached the peak of its flight, the vehicle shut off two of its three truck-sized Raptor engines. It hovered at roughly 33,000 feet before cutting the final engine, then tipped sideways and plunged back to Earth. As it neared the ground, the engines reignited to flip the rocket upright, and then it lowered itself to the landing pad.

As of Wednesday afternoon, SN15 was still sitting upright and intact on the landing pad.

A final version of this mega-spaceship is set to become NASA’s next moon lander – the vehicle that could put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

starship moon human landing system
An illustration of SpaceX’s Starship as a lander carrying NASA astronauts to the moon.

Musk has an ambitious vision for the launch system. The prototypes his company is launching are meant to be the upper stage of a two-part system. Eventually, a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would heave the spaceship toward orbit. Musk wants this system to carry humans into low-Earth orbit, to the moon, and even to Mars, then return to Earth to do it again. The smooth landing of SN15 gets Starship a big step closer to being the reusable vehicle Musk wants.

“It’s a tough vehicle because we’re trying to crack this nut of a fully and rapidly reusable rocket,” Musk said in a NASA press conference on April 23. “Somebody’s got to do this. And if you have rapid and complete reusability, then that is the gateway to the heavens.”

SpaceX is building a booster that could carry Starship to orbit

The SN15 was the second of the five high-flying Starships SpaceX has launched that touched down in one piece – at least initially. The other was SN10, which landed in one piece in early March but blew up 10 minutes later. The first two Starship prototypes that soared to a high altitudes, SN8 and SN9, both slammed into the landing pad at high speeds and exploded immediately. Another, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
From left to right: The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

SpaceX began assembling its first prototype of the Super Heavy booster – the other part of the Starship system – at its Texas facilities in mid-March. Musk said this version of Super Heavy is just for production testing, though the next prototype should fly.

To grasp the size of this launch system, look for the person standing on the lift in this photo Musk shared on Twitter. Starship, not pictured, would sit on top of that booster.

In addition to landing astronauts on the moon, Musk wants the Starship-Super Heavy system to power hypersonic travel on Earth. Ultimately, he has said, he plans to build 1,000 Starships that would carry people and cargo to Mars in order to establish a self-sustaining settlement.

Making Starship-Super Heavy reusable could slash the cost of reaching space by “a factor of 100 or more,” according to Musk. Its enormous size would allow it to carry large payloads to space, including tens of thousands of Starlink internet satellites that SpaceX plans to put into orbit.

In short, this is the launch system on which SpaceX is staking its future. But there are several hurdles to clear before it can reach space.

Environmental reviews could slow Starship’s journey to orbit

spacex starship super heavy spaceship booster rocket launch boca chica south texas illustration
An illustration of SpaceX’s planned 39-story Starship rocket system launching from Boca Chica, Texas.

Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked tickets for himself and eight others for a week-long Starship flight around the moon in 2023. The group is set to become the spaceship’s first passengers. After that, NASA hopes that Starship will return astronauts to the moon in 2024. But a report from the agency’s Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” NASA will meet that deadline.

In addition to successfully landing Starship prototypes, SpaceX will need to integrate the Super Heavy booster with the spaceship, learn to launch the two parts together, and show it can land the booster in one piece.

The company will also need to rocket a Starship into orbit to test its ability to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. That will require a new type of launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, which involves many regulatory hurdles, including a thorough environmental assessment. Depending on the findings of that assessment, it’s possible SpaceX may need to conduct a new environmental impact statement, which could take up to three years.

Complicating matters is a leaked FAA draft document obtained by Insider that revealed SpaceX’s plans to dig natural gas wells and build gas-fired power plants in Boca Chica. Such plans could prolong SpaceX’s environmental review process.

Still, Musk maintains that Starship could fly its first people in “a couple years.” He has also said he is “highly confident” that SpaceX will launch an uncrewed Starship to Mars in 2024, followed by a crewed mission in 2026.

“I tend to be somewhat optimistic with respect to schedules. I feel I should acknowledge this,” he said in the NASA briefing. “So take that with a grain of salt. But I think it’s not out of the question that it could fly people in a couple years.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Watch SpaceX launch its newest Starship prototype. The last 4 exploded.

elon musk starship thumb 4x3
Elon Musk (center) wants Starships to fly to Mars. But so far the only prototype to land successfully (left) exploded 10 minutes later (right).

Update: The SN15 prototype flew and landed successfully on Wednesday. Read more in our story.

SpaceX is about to launch its fifth high-flying Starship prototype on Wednesday afternoon. The spaceship is ready to lift off from the company’s Texas rocket facilities.

Known as Starship Serial No. 15, or SN15, the vehicle is the latest in a series of prototypes that SpaceX is launching up to 6 miles above Boca Chica, Texas. Eventually, a version of this Starship mega-spaceship is expected to become NASA’s next moon lander, which would put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

The plan for the SN15 flight calls for the rocket to shut off its three truck-sized Raptor engines one by one as it approaches the peak of its flight. Then the spaceship should tip sideways and plunge back to Earth, using four wing flaps to control its fall. As it nears the ground, SN15 should reignite its engines to flip itself upright and gently lower to the landing pad.

That last step is where its four predecessors have failed.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

The first two prototypes that soared to high altitudes, SN8 and SN9, slammed into the landing pad at high speeds and exploded immediately. The third, SN10, landed in one piece but blew up 10 minutes later. The fourth, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.

Watch Starship’s flight live

SpaceX is set to stream live from the launchpad and from cameras inside the rocket’s skirt, where the engines are, starting at 5:20 p.m. CT.

A few rocket enthusiasts and fans of the company are also broadcasting live from Boca Chica.

The NASASpaceflight’s video stream offers knowledgeable broadcasters and multiple quality camera views.

The commentators on the feed keep track of preparations at the SpaceX facilities that indicate progress toward liftoff – things like clearing the launchpad, activity in the tank farm next to SN15, and the loading of liquid propellant into the rocket.

LabPadre, meanwhile, offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. That YouTube channel is run by Louis Balderas, who lives across the bay from Boca Chica. Below is its main 4K-resolution feed.

For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a resort in South Padre Island, about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an airspace-closure notice for the Boca Chica area to make way for launch on Wednesday. A Cameron County judge has also issued local road closures. Both closures end at 8 p.m. CT, so SpaceX must launch by then.

Airspace and road closures are both required for launch. But they can change day to day depending on SpaceX’s plans and FAA procedure. If SN15 does not fly on Wednesday, further closures indicate that SpaceX could try again on Thursday or Friday.

A series of Starship explosions

For SpaceX, explosions during rocket development are par for the course.

“They use a different development philosophy than the government does, which is: Fly. If something goes wrong, they try to fix it. Fly again. If something else goes wrong, they try to fix that,” John Logsdon, founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told Insider. “People have complimented SpaceX on how quickly they move.”

But, Logsdon added, “the fact that they’ve had these early development-program problems means that there will have to be a record of success before anybody except an extreme risk-taker is willing to get aboard.”

Success may be even more critical now that NASA has chosen Starship to land its next astronauts on the moon.

The agency announced earlier this month that it is working with SpaceX to turn Starship into a lunar lander as part of NASA’s Artemis program. NASA hopes to land its first crewed Starship on the lunar surface in 2024, though a recent report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” the agency will meet that deadline.

starship moon human landing system
Illustration of SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry NASA astronauts to the Moon’s surface during the Artemis mission.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, recently predicted that Starship could fly its first humans “in a couple years.”

His goals for the launch system extend far beyond the lunar surface. Musk has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships to carry people and cargo to Mars. Ultimately, he hopes to establish a settlement there.

For now, though, SpaceX is trying to land the prototypes without blowing them up.

“Obviously we need to, like, not be making craters,” Musk said in a NASA press conference last month, referring to the explosions. “We’ve got some work to do, but we’re making rapid progress.”

This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published April 19.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX is preparing to launch its newest Starship prototype on Wednesday. The last 4 exploded.

elon musk starship thumb 4x3
Elon Musk (center) wants Starships to fly to Mars. But so far the only prototype to land successfully (left) exploded 10 minutes later (right).

SpaceX is getting ready to launch its fifth high-flying Starship prototype. The spaceship could lift off from the company’s Texas rocket facilities on Wednesday afternoon.

Known as Starship Serial No. 15, or SN15, the vehicle is the latest in a series of Starship prototypes that SpaceX is launching up to 6 miles above Boca Chica, Texas. Eventually, a version of this mega-spaceship is expected to become NASA’s next moon lander, which would put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

The plan for the SN15 flight calls for the rocket to shut off its three truck-sized Raptor engines one by one as it approaches the peak of its flight. Then the spaceship should tip sideways and plunge back to Earth, using four wing flaps to control its fall. As it nears the ground, SN15 should reignite its engines to flip itself upright and gently lower to the landing pad.

That last step is where its four predecessors have failed. The first two prototypes that soared to high altitudes, SN8 and SN9, slammed into the landing pad at high speeds and exploded immediately. The third, SN10, landed in one piece but blew up 10 minutes later. The fourth, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

For SpaceX, explosions during rocket development are par for the course.

“They use a different development philosophy than the government does, which is: Fly. If something goes wrong, they try to fix it. Fly again. If something else goes wrong, they try to fix that,” John Logsdon, founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told Insider. “People have complimented SpaceX on how quickly they move.”

But, Logsdon added, “the fact that they’ve had these early development-program problems means that there will have to be a record of success before anybody except an extreme risk-taker is willing to get aboard.”

Success may be even more critical now that NASA has chosen Starship to land its next astronauts on the moon.

The agency announced earlier this month that it is working with SpaceX to turn Starship into a lunar lander as part of NASA’s Artemis program. NASA hopes to land its first crewed Starship on the lunar surface in 2024, though a recent report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” the agency will meet that deadline.

starship moon human landing system
SpaceX’s Starship human lander would carry NASA astronauts to the moon’s surface.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, recently predicted that Starship could fly its first humans “in a couple years.”

His goals for the launch system extend far beyond the lunar surface. Musk has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships to carry people and cargo to Mars. Ultimately, he hopes to establish a settlement there.

For now, though, SpaceX is trying to land the prototypes without blowing them up.

“Obviously we need to, like, not be making craters,” Musk said in a NASA press conference last month, referring to the explosions. “We’ve got some work to do, but we’re making rapid progress.”

How to watch Starship’s flight live

During the test flight, SpaceX is likely to stream live from the launchpad and from cameras inside the rocket’s skirt, where the engines are. During past Starship flights, the up-close cameras have provided stunning footage, like this clip of SN9.

SpaceX’s live feed of the SN15 launch will be embedded here once it becomes available. A few rocket enthusiasts and fans of the company also broadcast live from Boca Chica.

We recommend starting with NASASpaceflight’s video stream, given the broadcasters’ knowledge and multiple quality camera views.

The commentators on the feed keep track of preparations at the SpaceX facilities that indicate progress toward liftoff – things like clearing the launchpad, activity in the tank farm next to SN15, and the loading of liquid propellant into the rocket.

LabPadre, a YouTube channel from Louis Balderas, who lives across the bay from Boca Chica, offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. Below is the channel’s main 4K-resolution feed.

For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a resort in South Padre Island, about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an airspace-closure notice for the area to make way for launch on Wednesday. A Cameron County judge has also issued local road closures. Both closures end at 8 p.m. CT, so SpaceX must launch by then.

Airspace and road closures are both required for launch. But they can change day to day depending on SpaceX’s plans and FAA procedure. If SN15 does not fly on Wednesday, further closures indicate that SpaceX could try again on Thursday or Friday.

This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published April 19.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX is preparing to launch its newest Starship prototype within days. The last 4 exploded.

elon musk starship happy success thumb 4x3
Left: the SN10 Starship prototype soars above Boca Chica, Texas, on March 3. Right: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

SpaceX is getting ready to launch its fifth high-flying Starship prototype from its Texas rocket facilities. The spaceship could fly as soon as Wednesday.

Known as Starship Serial No. 15, or SN15, the vehicle is the latest in a series of Starship prototypes that SpaceX is launching up to 6 miles above Boca Chica, Texas. Eventually, a version of this mega-spaceship is expected to become NASA’s next moon lander, which would put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

When SN15 launches, it should shut off its three truck-sized Raptor engines one by one as it approaches the peak of its flight. Then the spaceship should tip sideways and plunge back to Earth, using four wing flaps to control its fall. As it nears the ground, SN15 should reignite its engines to flip itself upright and gently lower to the landing pad.

That last step is where its four predecessors have failed. The first two prototypes that soared to high altitude, SN8 and SN9, slammed into the landing pad at high speed and exploded immediately. The third, SN10, landed in one piece but blew up 10 minutes later. The fourth, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

For SpaceX, explosions during rocket development are par for the course.

“They use a different development philosophy than the government does, which is: Fly. If something goes wrong, they try to fix it. Fly again. If something else goes wrong, they try to fix that,” John Logsdon, founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told Insider. “People have complimented SpaceX on how quickly they move.”

But, Logsdon added, “the fact that they’ve had these early development-program problems means that there will have to be a record of success before anybody except an extreme risk-taker is willing to get aboard.”

Success may be even more critical now that NASA has chosen Starship to land its next astronauts on the moon.

The agency announced earlier this month that it is working with SpaceX to turn Starship into a lunar lander as part of NASA’s Artemis program, which aims to return people to the moon. NASA hopes to land its first crewed Starship on the lunar surface in 2024, though a recent report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” the agency will meet that deadline.

starship moon human landing system
SpaceX’s Starship human lander would carry NASA astronauts to the moon’s surface.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, predicted last week that Starship could fly its first humans “in a couple years.”

His goals for the launch system extend far beyond the lunar surface. Musk has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships to carry people and cargo to Mars. Ultimately, he hopes to establish a settlement there.

For now, though, SpaceX is trying to land the prototypes without blowing them up.

“Obviously we need to, like, not be making craters,” Musk said in a NASA press conference on Friday, referring to the explosions. “We’ve got some work to do, but we’re making rapid progress.”

Government clearances indicate that SN15 could launch on Wednesday. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an airspace-closure notice for the area that day. A Cameron County judge has also issued a local road closure from noon to 8 p.m. CT, indicating that SpaceX may launch in that window.

Airspace and road closures are both required for launch. But they can change day-to-day depending on SpaceX’s plans and the FAA’s launch-licensing procedure.

How to watch Starship’s flight live

During the test flight, SpaceX is likely to stream live from the launchpad and from cameras inside the rocket’s skirt, where the engines are. During past Starship flights, the up-close cameras have provided stunning footage, like this clip of SN9.

SpaceX’s live feed of the SN15 launch will be embedded here once it becomes available. In the meantime, a few rocket enthusiasts and fans of the company are broadcasting live from Boca Chica.

LabPadre, a YouTube channel from Louis Balderas, who lives across the bay from Boca Chica, offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. Below is the channel’s main 4K-resolution feed.

For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a resort in South Padre Island, about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.

NASASpaceflight also offers broadcasts with multiple high-quality camera views and input from a group of knowledgeable commentators. Their livestream will be embedded here once it’s available.

This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published April 19.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX is preparing to test-fly a new Starship after the last four exploded. It could return NASA astronauts to the moon.

elon musk starship happy success thumb 4x3
Left: The SN10 Starship prototypes soars above Boca Chica, Texas on March 3, 2021. Right: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

SpaceX is getting ready to launch its fifth high-flying Starship from its Texas rocket facilities this week.

Unlike its predecessors, this particular mega-spaceship is a relative of NASA’s next moon lander – the vehicle that will put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

Starship serial No. 11, or SN15, is the latest of a series of Starship prototypes that SpaceX is launching up to six miles above Boca Chica, Texas.

As SN15 approaches the peak of its flight, it should shut off its three truck-sized Raptor engines one by one. Then SN15 should tip sideways and plunge back to Earth, using four wing flaps to control its fall.

As it nears the ground, SN15 should reignite its engines to flip itself upright again and gently lower to the landing pad. This is where its predecessors have failed, though.

The first two prototypes that soared to high altitude, SN8 and SN9, slammed into the landing pad at high speed and exploded immediately. The third, SN10, landed in one piece but blew up 10 minutes later. The fourth, SN11, exploded in mid-air as it re-lit its engines for landing.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
From left to right: The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

For SpaceX, explosions during rocket development are par for the course.

“They use a different development philosophy than the government does, which is: Fly. If something goes wrong, they try to fix it. Fly again. If something else goes wrong, they try to fix that,” John Logsdon, founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told Insider after the fourth Starship explosion. “People have complimented SpaceX on how quickly they move.”

But, he added, “the fact that they’ve had these early development-program problems means that there will have to be a record of success before anybody except an extreme risk taker is willing to get aboard.”

Nailing the landing is even more critical now that NASA has chosen Starship to land its next astronauts on the moon.

The agency announced on Friday that it’s working with SpaceX to turn Starship into the lunar lander that will jumpstart its Artemis program, which aims to establish a permanent human presence on the moon. NASA hopes to land its first crewed Starship there in 2024, but a new report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General found that it’s “highly unlikely” the agency will meet this deadline.

starship moon human landing system
Illustration of SpaceX Starship human lander design that will carry NASA astronauts to the moon’s surface during the Artemis mission.

On SpaceX’s end, a major step toward the moon will be flying and landing Starships here on Earth – without blowing them up.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has ambitions beyond the lunar surface, though. Ultimately, he has said, he plans to build 1,000 Starships that carry people and cargo to Mars and establish a settlement there.

Musk said Thursday on Twitter that the company was aiming to launch SN15 sometime this week. Government clearances indicate that Tuesday and Wednesday might offer flight opportunities.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued airspace-closure notices for the area from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. CT on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The Cameron County judge has also issued local road closures – another requirement for launch – from noon to 8 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.

How to watch Starship’s flight live

As of Monday afternoon, SN15 was upright on the Boca Chica launchpad. During the test flight, SpaceX will likely livestream from that site and from cameras inside the rocket’s skirt, where the engines are located.

The up-close cameras have provided stunning footage of past Starship flights, like the below footage of SN9. (We’ll embed SpaceX’s live feed below once it’s available.)

In the meantime, a few rocket enthusiasts and fans of the company are broadcasting live from Boca Chica.

NASASpaceflight broadcasters will likely cover a critical “static fire” engine test that SpaceX must conduct ahead of launch, anchoring SN15 to the launchpad and igniting its engines. It’s unclear when that will happen, but the earliest opportunity is Tuesday.

LabPadre, a YouTube channel from Louis Balderas, a Texas resident who lives just across the bay from Boca Chica, offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. Below is the channel’s main 4K-resolution feed.

For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a hotel resort in South Padre Island about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX’s new Starship rocket prototype exploded at the end of a test flight yet again, sending debris flying

SN11
A screen shot of SpaceX’s landing pad in Texas during the SN11 prototype flight on March 30, 2021. Arrows indicate flying debris.

SpaceX’s latest Starship rocket prototype once again failed to finish its test flight in one piece.

This version of the vehicle, called Starship serial No. 11, or SN11, sent debris raining down during an unsuccessful landing attempt on Tuesday morning. It’s not yet clear whether the rocket blew up in the air during its descent, or whether it exploded upon touching the landing pad.

Starship heaved itself off the launchpad at 8 a.m. local time, launching 6 miles into the skies above Texas. As it approached the peak of its flight, the 16-story rocket shut off two of its three truck-sized Raptor engines. It hovered at 33,000 feet, then cut the final engine, tipped sideways, and plunged back to Earth.

As it neared the ground, the rocket was supposed to reignite its engines to flip upright and land gently. Instead, its onboard cameras froze after the engine ignition sequence. Because of a thick fog in Boca Chica, Texas, it was impossible to see SN11 as it approached the landing pad.

SpaceX’s live feed of the launch cut out after 5 minutes and 49 seconds of footage.

A live feed from NASASpaceflight shows debris falling around the launchpad, presumably from the rocket.

While the rocket landed too hard, and possibly already in pieces, it did reach the correct spot: “At least the crater is in the right place!” Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, tweeted on Tuesday.

“Something significant happened shortly after landing burn start,” Musk tweeted. “Should know what it was once we can examine the bits later today.”

He added that it seemed like one of the engines had issues on the rocket’s ascent.

The launch was SpaceX’s fourth Starship prototype flight attempt since December. The Starship prototype that launched prior to this one, called SN10, stuck the landing at first after its flight earlier this month, but it exploded 10 minutes later. The two before that, SN8 and SN9, both crashed immediately and blew up.

starship prototype explosions collage spacex boca chica spadre
From left to right: The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

SpaceX will have to master landing the Starship – without any explosions, immediate or delayed – in order to achieve founder Elon Musk’s goal of building the world’s first fully reusable launch system.

SpaceX has started building the booster designed to carry Starship to orbit

The Starship prototypes SpaceX is launching are meant to be the upper stage of a two-part system. Eventually, a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would heave the Starship spaceship toward orbit.

SpaceX began assembling its first prototype of that booster at its Texas facilities in mid-March. Musk said this version of Super Heavy is just for production testing, though the next prototype should fly.

To grasp the size of this launch system, look for the person standing on the lift in this photo Musk shared on Twitter. Then imagine Starship sitting on top of that booster.

Musk wants the Starship-Super Heavy system to one day fly astronauts to the moon and power hypersonic travel on Earth. Ultimately, he has said, he plans to build 1,000 Starships in order to carry people and cargo to Mars and establish a settlement there.

Making Starship-Super Heavy reusable could slash the cost of reaching space 1,000-fold. Its enormous size would allow it to carry large payloads to space, including tens of thousands of Starlink internet satellites that SpaceX plans to put into orbit.

In short, this is the launch system on which SpaceX is staking its future. But there are several hurdles to clear before it can reach space.

Environmental reviews could slow Starship’s journey to orbit

spacex starship super heavy spaceship booster rocket launch boca chica south texas illustration
An illustration of SpaceX’s planned 39-story Starship rocket system launching from Boca Chica, Texas.

In addition to landing Starship prototypes without blowing them up, SpaceX will need to integrate the Super Heavy booster with the spaceship, learn to launch the two parts together, and show it can land the booster in one piece.

The company will also need to rocket a Starship into orbit to test its ability to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. That will require a new type of launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, but obtaining it requires clearing many regulatory hurdles, including a thorough environmental assessment. Depending on the findings of that assessment, it’s possible SpaceX may need to conduct a new environmental impact statement, which could take up to three years.

Complicating matters is a leaked FAA draft document obtained by Insider that revealed SpaceX’s plans to dig natural gas wells and build gas-fired power plants in Boca Chica. Such plans could prolong SpaceX’s environmental review process.

Musk, however, has said he is “highly confident” SpaceX will launch an uncrewed Starship to Mars in 2024, followed by a crewed mission in 2026.

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A cyberpunk scene at SpaceX’s launch facilities: A robot dog inspected the wreckage of a Starship rocket prototype

spacex robot dog zeus starship sn10

SpaceX created a futuristic tableau at its Texas rocket-testing facilities on Thursday, when a robo-dog wandered the wreckage of its latest Starship prototype.

SpaceX launched the rocket prototype, called Starship serial No. 10, or SN10, on Wednesday. Like the last two prototypes before it, SN10 climbed to nearly 33,000 feet above the company’s facilities in the town of Boca Chica. Then it shut off its engines and plummeted to Earth in a belly-flop position, controlling its fall with four wing flaps.

Unlike its predecessors, which both slammed into the ground and exploded immediately, SN10 successfully re-fired its engines to flip itself upright and touch down softly on the ground. But then it exploded spectacularly 10 minutes later.

sn10 starship explosion landing spacex
SpaceX’s SN10 Starship rocket prototype exploded on the landing pad minutes after touchdown on Wednesday.

With the air cleared and the roads reopened, photographers and SpaceX fans flocked to the company’s facilities on  Thursday morning to watch the clean-up from a distance. That’s when they spotted a fascinating four-legged robot wandering the wreckage.

Spadre.com shared videos of the agile bot on Twitter.

 

The life-like machine is a Boston Dynamics “Spot” robot dog, which SpaceX has apparently renamed Zeus, according to photos that show the name printed across a red doghouse where the robot lives.

Zeus has been spotted inspecting SpaceX landing sites before. It’s not clear what exactly the mechanical pooch was doing at the SN10 explosion site, but Zeus is likely outfitted with cameras and sensors to collect data, since approaching wrecked rockets can be unsafe for humans.

SpaceX did not respond to Insider’s request for further details.

 

The rocket Zeus was inspecting is designed as the upper stage of a two-part system; a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would one day heave the Starship spaceship toward orbit. But eliminating these explosions from the vehicle’s landing process is crucial, since SpaceX is designing Starship and Super Heavy to be fully and rapidly reusable. A spaceship that blows up after it lands is, of course, tough to relaunch.

If the system works, though, Starship-Super Heavy could slash the cost of reaching space 1,000-fold, since it would eliminate the need to build new rockets and spaceships for each spaceflight. Musk wants to eventually construct a fleet of reusable Starships to power round-the-world hypersonic travel on Earth, fly astronauts to the moon, and one day carry people to Mars.

Musk has said that he is “highly confident” SpaceX will launch an uncrewed Starship to Mars in 2024, followed by a crewed mission in 2026.

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