SpaceX, the private space exploration company founded by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, called off the first launch attempt of its Starship rocket on Monday due to a technical issue that arose during fueling. The nearly 400-foot-tall rocket was scheduled to take off from the company’s launch pad near the Mexican border in southern Texas.
The test flight was canceled with just over eight minutes left in the countdown due to a stuck valve needed to pressurize the first-stage booster. The launch controllers were unable to fix the frozen valve in time, but for practice, they took the clocks down to the 40-second mark before halting the countdown. No people or satellites were aboard the rocket during the launch attempt.
SpaceX plans to use the Starship rocket to send people and cargo to the moon and Mars in the future. However, there won’t be another launch attempt until at least Thursday, as the company needs to address the technical issue and ensure that the rocket is safe to fly.
Despite the delay, many enthusiasts and spectators had already gathered in the area on the day before the launch attempt. Cars, campers, RVs, bicycles, and even horses jammed the only road leading to the launch pad, where the stainless steel rocket towered above the flat scrubland and prairie. Enthusiasts posed in front of the giant letters that spelled out “Starbase” at the entrance of the SpaceX complex, and in front of the rocket two miles farther down the road, which ended at a beach on the Gulf of Mexico.
On the day of the launch attempt, however, spectators were barred from the area due to safety concerns. Instead, they packed a beach about six miles away on South Padre Island, where they could still catch a glimpse of the rocket’s ascent into the sky.
Some tourists and families with children expressed disappointment that they could not witness the launch, but many said they would return for another attempt. Michelle Vancampenhout, a tourist from Green Bay, Wisconsin, said that seeing the launch would be a “once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Despite the delay, Musk remained positive about the test flight, tweeting after the postponement that SpaceX had “learned a lot today.” The company has been testing prototypes of the Starship rocket at its Texas facility for several years, with several successful test flights and landings in recent months.
The Starship rocket is a crucial part of Musk’s vision to establish a human settlement on Mars. The reusable rocket is designed to carry up to 100 people and is capable of interplanetary travel. Musk has previously stated that he hopes to send the first humans to Mars as early as 2026, although some experts remain skeptical about the feasibility of this timeline.