SpaceX announced Friday that it is targeting a second flight test of its superheavy rocket and its Starship upper stage for “mid-November.”
The company said the launch date is pending regulatory approval, as the Federal Aviation Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have yet to complete the environmental review process for the rocket and its launch site, which is surrounded by wetlands in south Texas. Said it means not.
Still, SpaceX’s announcement indicates that the company believes it may soon receive this regulatory approval. This is consistent with what sources told Ars that federal approval for Starship’s second launch is nearly complete.
First flight, not the best
The first full stack of Starship, including the Super Heavy booster, was launched from South Texas on April 20, 2023. The rocket was launched even though three of his 33 main Raptor engines were not fully ignited at takeoff. Three more engines failed during the climb, and after several minutes, the aircraft finally veered off course and was destroyed by the flight termination system. Still, SpaceX obtained valuable data.
There were problems not only with the rocket but also with the launch site. The company built the first launch tower without flame guides or other structures to reduce the power of its 33 main engines. As a result, the launch pad was heavily damaged, and the energy of the launch caused concrete to spew into the surrounding marshes.
In the months since then, SpaceX has completely rebuilt the launch pad at its characteristic rapid pace and installed a water sound suppression system to dampen the energy of the launch. Part of the review by the Fish and Wildlife Service is to ensure that these measures adequately reduce the explosive force of the rocket’s ignition and departure from the launch site.
It has become hot
SpaceX is once again targeting a morning launch for the rocket, likely around 8 a.m. local time in South Texas (14:00 UTC). Officials have suggested to Ars that the earliest possible launch date is November 13, but nothing has been decided.
of Flight schedule and profile The second flight test, announced by the company on Friday, is similar to the April test and involves a 90-minute flight of the Starship upper stage, with the goal of completing nearly a full orbit before flying into the Pacific Ocean near the island. There is. Kauai.
One notable change is the addition of a “hot staging” ring between the super heavy booster and the starship’s upper stage. The technology requires Starship’s Raptor engines to ignite before the upper stage separates from the Super Heavy’s first stage. This is technically more difficult than waiting for stage separation, but ultimately increases Starship’s payload capability into orbit.
“Obviously, it would be like a booster explosion, so we have to protect the top of the booster stage from being incinerated by the engines on the upper stage,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk said earlier this year. The design changes will increase the Starship rocket’s payload capacity by approximately 10%.
SpaceX will not attempt to recover either the first or second stage on this flight. Instead, the goal is to demonstrate the flight capabilities of the super heavy rocket and Starship’s performance if the stack reaches separation. Musk said he believes Starship has about a 60 percent chance of reaching its destination on this flight.
Regardless, it’s going to be quite a show.