Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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SpaceX is cleared to attempt its third Starship test flight

Now that the Federal Aviation Administration has granted SpaceX a license (pdf), the third test flight of its Starship Super Heavy vehicle could take place as soon as Thursday morning. SpaceX says that a 110-minute launch window will open at 7AM CT / 8AM ET / 5AM PT tomorrow, March 14th.

If you’re planning on watching to see what happens, we recommend getting up early before the launch just in case it’s either canceled or, as we’ve seen on previous attempts, occurs at the very beginning of the launch window.

In a post on X (which, like SpaceX, is owned by Elon Musk), the FAA said it has “determined SpaceX met all safety, environmental, policy and financial responsibility requirements.” While both of the first two Starship launches took off and achieved some mission goals, both also ended explosively.

The first one caused significant damage not only to the launchpad but also “left a 385-acre debris field that flung concrete chunks as far as 2,680 feet from the launchpad and sparked a 3.5-acre fire.” The FAA provided a list of 63 corrective actions for SpaceX to take to address issues such as leaking propellant before the second attempt last spring.

For this third launch, SpaceX says it’s targeting a splashdown in the Indian Ocean instead of aiming for a spot closer to Hawaii as it did with the previous attempts, to try things like in-space engine burns “while maximizing public safety.”

The third flight test aims to build on what we’ve learned from previous flights while attempting a number of ambitious objectives, including the successful ascent burn of both stages, opening and closing Starship’s payload door, a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage’s coast phase, the first ever re-light of a Raptor engine while in space, and a controlled reentry of Starship. It will also fly a new trajectory, with Starship targeted to splashdown in the Indian Ocean. This new flight path enables us to attempt new techniques like in-space engine burns while maximizing public safety.



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