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King of rockets, NASA's SLS could soon be usurped by SpaceX's Starship

Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in News & Features

The crowd’s cheers began once they saw the smoke and flame from the Launch Pad 39-B a little more than three miles away followed by the growing roar about 10 seconds into flight that grew to a crescendo about 45 seconds after liftoff.

The pressure amassed in the ear like the muffled sounds of waking up from a dream, gaining steam until it became a crackling series of staccato punches to the senses. It could even be felt in the chest while the swelling cacophony of the distant burn of 1,500 gallons of propellant per second made spectators wonder just when it would stop.

The rumble lasted for more than two minutes with the crowd giving a little cheer halfway through before growing eerily quiet as the rocket continued to climb in altitude, then dialing back eventually to just a distant, faded hum. Then the crowd let loose again.

The Space Coast has a lot of little rumbles in the form of Falcon 9 and United Launch Alliance flights that regularly thrill rocket fans, on pace to launch more than once a week this year.


But those bigger rumbles remain few and far between. SLS won’t fly again for at least another 18 months, although SpaceX does have a few Falcon Heavy launches on tap in the coming year, including the USSF-67 mission for the Space Force sometime in January.

That will have to hold down the rocket power fort until Artemis II lines up for launch for NASA or SpaceX sends Starship to the Space Coast.


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