In what must rank as ‘the science news of the month’, Elon Musk’s SpaceX test-fired its Booster-7 rocket, a massive contrivance with 33 engines. Though one of them had to be manually disabled and another failed, the simultaneous firing of 31 rocket engines is a world record, beating the 30-engine firing of the Soviet N1 rocket in 1969. The super-massive Booster-7 can kick the ground with a thrust of 7,600 tonnes; to compare, India’s PSLV-XL rises with a thrust of 430 tonnes.

The Booster is the first (lower) stage of SpaceX’s launch vehicle. The second (upper) stage is called Starship, which will return to earth for reuse. When fully assembled, the entire rocket will stand 120 metres (about 394 ft) tall.

That the Booster-7, also called ‘Super Heavy’, did not explode on the launchpad — the previous test in July 2022 burst into flames — was itself considered a success. Earlier, SpaceX had tested the Starship five times by launching it to a height of 10 km and bringing it back to the launchpad. The first four crashed, the fifth (SN-15), flown in May 2021, was a success.