UPD: Starship Flight 3 To Be Ready Before Christmas But Still Needs To Get FAA Launch License15th Nov 2023
Update: 21st November
Elon Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, announced via X (formerly known as Twitter) on Sunday, 19 November, that the third Starship vehicle is expected to be prepared for flight in the next 3 to 4 weeks. While this optimistic timeline suggests technical readiness before Christmas, the actual liftoff is uncertain.
Despite Musk’s announcement, many are uncertain about the third launch so soon, as SpaceX needs to get approval for a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA is currently conducting an investigation into the events of 18 Saturday during Starship’s second test flight.
Update: 20th November
US weather radar recorded an unusual return in the area where the Starship is thought to have disintegrated.
Along with rocket milestones, SpaceX managed to build a more robust launch pad for this mission. The pad and some of its systems survived the intense heat and pressure generated by the Super Heavy Booster.
Update2: 18th November
SpaceX lost contact with the upper stage of its Starship at about 15 minutes after launch. The craft had already reached 140km above Earth according to the status stripline on the X live broadcast. As of the time of writing, it is not known what happened, although speculation that an automatic self-destruct might have been initiated.
Dr. Marco Langbroek, who is not a spokesperson from SpaceX, posted a map of the probable disintegration area, and then considered that probable debris field as extending out to The Bahamas:
Update1: 18th November
The SpaceX Starship successfully left the launch pad in Texas. The first stage Super Heavy Booster did not survive the descent into the Gulf of Mexico. However, the hot-staging sequence occurred successfully and the booster did survive seemingly intact for several seconds before a RUD occurred. At the time of writing, the upper stage Starship itself is performing nominally.
Update: 17th November
The Starship launch is now scheduled for Saturday, 18th November. The links below in the 16th November update will work.
What happened? Let’s let The Man explain it himself:
Update: 16th November
How do you watch the second Starship launch online?
The live webcast of the second flight test was planned to commence approximately 35 minutes before liftoff, and it is accessible on Spacex’s official website https://www.spacex.com/launches/mission/?missionId=starship-flight-2 and on X (Twitter). The Starship launch is scheduled for 17th November. A two-hour launch window opens at 7:00 a.m. CT (1300 GMT). Backup launch windows run on Saturday (18th November) and Sunday (19 November).
SpaceX emphasized that, given the nature of developmental testing, the schedule is subject to change. So, viewers should stay tuned to their X account for updates.
Update: 16th November
SpaceX aims for 17th November for its second attempt to put a Starship into space.
Update 2: 15th November
The Federal Aviation Administration issued the revised licence for SpaceX this evening (GMT). You can find it at: https://www.faa.gov/media/69476.
Update 1: 15th November
The FAA has successfully concluded the Written Reevaluation of the Programmatic Environmental Assessment for Starship, bringing the much-anticipated second test flight one step closer. However, the journey has been challenging. Elon Musk’s frustration over delays attributed to the Fish and Wildlife Agency added a layer of complexity to the approval process. As of the time of writing, the Fish and Wildlife Agency clearance is muddled. Aviation Week’s & Space Technology‘s space editor posted about Musk getting his ‘fish licence’ but there is no official word at the moment.
Safety on the Launch Pad: SpaceX Faces Scrutiny as Starship Test Date Approaches
Amidst the anticipation of the upcoming Starship flight test, a report from Reuters has surfaced, shedding light on workplace injuries at SpaceX. The records indicate a concerning number of incidents, with over 600 injuries reported since 2014. More than 100 workers suffered cuts or lacerations, 29 experienced broken bones or dislocations, 17 had their hands or fingers “crushed,” and nine sustained head injuries, including one skull fracture, four concussions, and one traumatic brain injury.
The report also highlights Elon Musk’s apparent nonchalance about safety during his visits to SpaceX sites. Musk, at times, reportedly engaged in unconventional behavior, such as playing with a novelty flamethrower, and discouraged workers from wearing safety yellow due to his preference against bright colors.
This revelation adds a layer of concern about the work environment at SpaceX, emphasizing the importance of addressing safety measures alongside the anticipation for the Starship flight test.
SpaceX Readies for Starship’s Re-launch next week
SpaceX hopes to conduct the re-launch of Starship next week. The preparations for the launch of the should be completed by 17 November, though not all approvals are in place yet.
Following the unsuccessful launch in April, the second test requires the issuance of a launch license by the Federal Aviation Administration. Although the regulator concluded its safety evaluation of Starship in October, the project still awaits approval from the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the license to be granted.
As per promotional materials released by SpaceX, a fresh Starship is currently positioned on the launchpad. Towering at 394 feet (120 meters), Starship generates an impressive 16.7 million pounds (74.3 Meganewtons) of thrust. Thus, it surpasses the power of the Saturn V rockets utilized in sending Apollo astronauts to the Moon.
A key feature of Starship is its full reusability, with both stages intended to return to Earth. This design aims to significantly cut down on costs associated with space travel. Elon Mask mentioned that Starship’s separation system has undergone significant revisions since its initial test in Boca Chica. He noted that the testing of this updated system would constitute the “most challenging aspect of the flight.”
The flight plan will closely resemble the one executed in April. Following separation, Starship is intended to ascend to an altitude just below orbit, as described by Musk. It will then undertake a near-circular trajectory around the Earth before making a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
Starship second launch
In April, SpaceX launched Starship. Unfortunately, they had to terminate their mission after losing communication with the rocket due to a malfunction, resulting in a spectacular crash. On the surface, this might have looked like a collossal failure for the astronautics company, but at the time, Musk’s response to the mission was positive, and everyone started speculating about Starship’s second launch attempt.
SpaceX acknowledged the mission as a success, citing the wealth of knowledge gained about Starship’s flight capabilities. Surpassing an altitude of 24 miles was a notable achievement, especially in light of initial doubts held by staff, including Elon Musk, about the rocket’s ability to leave the launch pad. Since then, the necessary modifications have been incorporated into the subsequent Starship model, which currently sits poised on the Starbase launch pad.
There was some speculation that the Starship could be very close to its new launch date. While there has been no word in the past few weeks, other than an indefinite remark or two, Musk did make an announcement on 5th October, while speaking virtually at the International Astronautical Congress in Baku, about satellite launches in 2024.
Space X Have Made Over 1000 Changes to Starship
Space X’s Starship has undergone a number of changes in its preparation for the Starship’s second launch. Elon Musk stated that more than 1,000 changes were made to increase the odds of a successful orbital attempt.
There was a special emphasis on the stage separation procedure, which adopted a hot-staging approach to improve the payload performance.
This method was inspired by Russia’s Soyuz rocket and involves igniting upper-stage engines while they are still attached to the lower stage, minimizing thrust loss during separation. To make these changes possible, Space X is also modifying the Super Heavy booster, including the vent extensions, and also adding additional shielding. Musk estimated that the chance of a successful mission is 60%.
When is the next Starship launch attempt?
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is currently in the process of reviewing SpaceX’s application for a launch license. As of 10th September, according to Musk, SpaceX had completed 57 out of the 63 required items specified by the FAA for the license.
On 1st October, Elon Musk announced that Starship was indeed ready for its second flight. SpaceX also confirmed on the same day that their team was continuing to collaborate with the FAA to obtain the launch license. Therefore, it was natural to conclude that the company would soon announce a launch date when the FAA provides SpaceX with a launch license.
However, Musk’s recent comments have surprised many, and it now looks like we won’t be seeing Starship launch again until 2024.
What Went Wrong During Starship’s First Launch
Following the test launch, Musk disclosed that an internal fire occurred during Starship’s ascent, resulting in damage to its engines and computers. This led to an unintended deviation from its planned trajectory, with the destruct command being triggered approximately 40 seconds later than intended to initiate the rocket’s destruction.
The FAA official stated in a letter that this automated destruction command is among the various ‘safety critical systems’ that SpaceX needs to enhance before undertaking another launch.
The launch pad was said to be severely damaged, although Musk later said he was happy that the effects were not as bad as everyone had presumed. There was also a video released that showed a car being struck by debris from Straship.
Why Is Starship Considered to Be Special?
Starship stands as the largest and most powerful rocket in history, outmatching NASA’s Space Launch System, Saturn V, and the Soviet N1 in thrust. The objective is full reusability, with both the Super Heavy first stage and the Starship upper stage set for reuse.
The thing that perhaps triggers the most excitement, however, is the possibility of humans being sent to Mars, which Musk is recently on record as saying is something we must do before he dies.
Correction: There is a lot happening at SpaceX, and we got our wires crossed when this was first published. As the latest update reads, SpaceX will try to launch a Starship on 17th November.