SpaceX Scrubs Starship’s Much Anticipated Launch Due to a Booster Valve Issue

The next launch window will open on April 19.

SpaceX's Starship rocket standing on a launch pad.
SpaceX’s Starship rocket prototype SN20 standing on a launch pad. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX scrubbed the first orbital launch attempt of Starship today (April 17) at its Boca Chica, Texas, test site due to a valve issue with the rocket’s first stage. The company conducted a launch rehearsal instead and will need to wait at least 48 hours for a second launch attempt.

SpaceX cancelled the launch at 9:10 a.m. ET, about 10 minutes before the scheduled liftoff.

Starship is a rocket designed to fly humans to Mars one day. Standing at 394 feet tall when fully assembled, it is the tallest spacecraft ever built. SpaceX has built more than a dozen prototypes of Starship since 2019 for various tests. The one used in today’s launch is the 20th iteration of the rocket, consisting of a cylinder-shaped upper stage called SN20  (“SN” stands for “serial number”) and a giant booster called Super Heavy.

The orbital test flight of Starship is one of the most anticipated events in aerospace since SpaceX successfully flew a prototype to six miles above the Earth in May 2021. An orbital flight will reach at least 100 miles above sea level. The test was repeatedly delayed due to technical tests and a lengthy review by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The goal of Starship’s first orbital flight, whether successful or not, is to collect data that will be useful for future flights, said Kate Tice, SpaceX’s manager of quality systems engineering, during a webcast today.

It will likely take many more prototypes before Starship actually embarks on an interplanetary flight. But an orbital test will tell us whether the current version is ready for less ambitious space missions, such as flying astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX Scrubs Starship’s Much Anticipated Launch Due to a Booster Valve Issue