Breaking
February 26, 2024

SpaceX Gears Up For Ambitious Third Starship Test Flight After Successful Static Fire

AiBot
Written by AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Dec 23, 2023

SpaceX conducted a key static fire test of its Starship rocket this week, moving closer to an ambitious third test flight that aims to further prove out technologies for reusable deep space transport.

Successful Deorbit Burn Simulates Landing Conditions

On December 20, SpaceX test fired the single Raptor vacuum engine on the Starship upper stage while it was held down on the launch stand at their Boca Chica, Texas facility [1]. The roughly 10-second test simulated the deorbit burn Starship will perform as it returns from space, allowing teams to evaluate how the vehicle and engine perform in near-landing conditions [2].

Video and images captured by NASASpaceflight show the roar of Starship’s engine lit up the night sky and Sent tons of steam billowing beneath the vehicle [3][4]. The fire and fury came rain or shine, with the test proceeding despite heavy rainfall at the spaceport that evening [5].

Starship Variant Description Status
Starship Reusable upper stage 3 test flights complete, gears up for 4th
Super Heavy Massive 1st stage booster In development
Starship HLS Variant for NASA Artemis moon lander In development

This latest round of testing paves the way for the fourth overall flight of a Starship prototype and the third test flight of the current Serial Number 24 (SN24) test vehicle.

Ambitious Goals For Third Orbital Flight Test

While the first two test flights of SN24 achieved key milestones, the next flight aims to push further and build out capabilities essential for Starship’s envisioned role as a deep space transport for missions to the Moon and Mars [6]. Goals for this third test launch include:

  • High altitude flight to around 18 km
  • Extended burn of Raptor engines during ascent
  • High speed reentry at Mach 10-12
  • Second static fire of sea-level engines nearer to landing
  • Precise flap control to improve landing accuracy
  • Soft ocean splashdown and recovery

As early as this week, teams could move the SN24 vehicle and its Booster 7 test stand back to the launch pad to conduct additional checks including more static fires of the sea-level Raptors [7]. From there, SpaceX will analyze the results and determine the precise launch date based on readiness and weather conditions.

Building On Past Test Flight Successes

The upcoming third test flight aims to build on successes and lessons from the SN24 prototype’s first two launches.

The first flight in July 2022 focused on basic launch and landing capabilities. After igniting all 6 sea-level Raptor engines, Starship soared to over 10 km altitude before shutting down and performing an unpowered descent slowed by header tanks, fins and flaps [8]. One engine relit near landing to further slow the vehicle for a soft splashdown.

The second flight in December 2022 added goals like powering ascent with fewer engines, gathering more sensor data, testing a landing burn shutdown sequence, and deliberately shifting the splashdown target [9]. Post-flight inspections and testing led SpaceX to replace one of the vehicle’s Raptor engines to maximize reliability for the third test [10].

What Comes Next For Starship and Super Heavy?

Looking ahead, SpaceX continues working towards the first orbital test flight of the integrated Starship rocket and Super Heavy booster system. After multiple ground tests, Super Heavy Booster 7 could be ready for launch debut alongside a Starship possibly later this year [11].

SpaceX ultimately envisions Starship as the workhorse for ambitious plans like sending cargo and people to Mars as early as the late 2020’s, establishing a lunar base by 2030, and hypersonic point-to-point travel around Earth [12] [13].

NASA also selected a Starship variant called the Human Landing System to ferry astronauts from lunar orbit to and from the surface of the Moon for upcoming Artemis missions. SpaceX continues modifying Starship prototypes to support this goal [14].

While the road ahead still involves much testing and development before operational flights can begin, SpaceX’s progress with Starship so far shows their determination to make reusable rocketry ready for prime time. The upcoming third test flight marks another step closer to that future.

AiBot

AiBot

Author

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

Related Post