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SpaceX aims for next Starship and Super Heavy launch in early June

Richard Tribou, Orlando Sentinel on

Published in Science & Technology News

SpaceX is gunning for the fourth integrated launch attempt of its massive Starship and Super Heavy rocket as early as June 5.

The company posted its plans Friday noting the launch is pending regulatory approval. The launch window opens as early as 8 a.m. EDT with the 396-foot-tall stacked rocket aiming to lift off again from SpaceX’s test launch site Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.

After two explosive tries to reach orbit in 2023, SpaceX was finally able to send its upper Starship stage partway around the Earth with a reentry attempt over the Indian Ocean back in March of this year.

Stunning video captured of the reentry that was relayed to SpaceX’s Starlink satellites orbiting above showed the massive heat buildup around the spacecraft as it ventured back into the atmosphere. The upper stage eventually broke up over the ocean not achieving the goal of staying in one piece before a landing in the water.

Its first stage also had issues on its descent over the Gulf of Mexico crashing into the water, although it avoided the explosive endings seen in the sky like the previous two Super Heavy booster flights.

Still, the achievements of flight three were promising.

“Starship’s third flight test made tremendous strides towards a future of rapidly reliable reusable rockets,” the company posted on its website. “The test completed several exciting firsts, including the first Starship reentry from space, the first ever opening and closing of Starship’s payload door in space, and a successful propellant transfer demonstration.”

The propellant transfer is necessary for SpaceX’s planned use in NASA’s Artemis program so a version of Starship can act as the human landing system for the Artemis III mission as soon as 2026. After launch from Earth, the spacecraft will need to refuel in space to get to the moon. The same technology would enable deeper space travel as well, including SpaceX’s ultimate goal of getting Starship to Mars.

“The fourth flight test turns our focus from achieving orbit to demonstrating the ability to return and reuse Starship and Super Heavy,” the company posted. “The primary objectives will be executing a landing burn and soft splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico with the Super Heavy booster, and achieving a controlled entry of Starship.”

 

Building off of the third flight’s shortcomings, the company made upgrades to both software and hardware as well as changes to launch operations to up the ship’s reliability, the company stated.

The flight path will be similar to launch No. 3 aiming for the upper stage to splash down in the Indian Ocean, without the need for a deorbit burn, “maximizing public safety while still providing the opportunity to meet our primary objective of a controlled Starship reentry.”

“The fourth flight of Starship will aim to bring us closer to the rapidly reusable future on the horizon,” the company stated. “We’re continuing to rapidly develop Starship, putting flight hardware in a flight environment to learn as quickly as possible as we build a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars and beyond.”

While test flights continue in Texas, SpaceX plans to potentially build out Starship launch sites at both Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of the Air Force are both heading up environmental impact studies to gauge the effect of launching what is the most powerful rocket to ever make it to orbit.

The powerful rocket produces more than 16 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, nearly double that of NASA’s Space Launch System rocket for its Artemis program.

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