SpaceX prepares for fourth Starship flight

In summary, SpaceX successfully stacked a fully-sized Starship and Super Heavy rocket. The first launch is still pending FAA approval, but is expected around December 31.
  • #211
NASA released some of their tracking footage of the second flight. The hot staging isn't shown, unfortunately.

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Physics news on
  • #212
FYI Two sentences are visible, rest of frame is blank.

  • #213
I only wrote two sentences, the rest should embed a tweet (it works for me). Here is a direct link
  • #214
mfb said:
I only wrote two sentences, the rest should embed a tweet (it works for me). Here is a direct link

Both of your links here worked. Twitter responds to them with:

This browser is no longer supported.​

with a link listing the browsers they deign to talk to.

Do I detect a conspiracy against older browsers? :nb) 😢
  • #215
Time to upgrade from Netscape?

Explosives for the flight termination system have been spotted and SpaceX aims at a launch in the second week of March.
  • #216
  • #217
FAA closed the mishap investigation
SpaceX released more details what went wrong. The booster had clogged liquid oxygen filters.

News article

Timeline of the previous flight:
Nov 1: FAA closes investigation (that's what happened today)
Nov 10: Flight termination system explosives installed (they are already at the launch site)
Nov 16: Launch license issued
Nov 18: Launch

If they repeat that pattern we get a launch in mid March. If it is successful and the ship reaches orbit then we can expect additional flights to follow relatively quickly. The hardware for the fourth flight is almost ready.
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  • #218
Starship completed its rehearsal for launch, loading more than 10 million pounds of propellant on Starship and Super Heavy and taking the flight-like countdown to T-10 seconds
Needs some final work on the flight termination system and then the launch license.

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  • #219
March 14

(with the usual caveats about pending regulatory approval, scrubs and so on)
  • #220
March 14th - but the waters north of Hawaii are no longer part of the splashdown plan!
There are also several additional tests being planned during its even shorter "orbit".

The original source of this news is from a "broadcast" on Musk's X site - of which I am not a subscriber.

But the news has been picked up by
It has been reported the FAA is very close indeed to approving the modified launch license for this 3rd flight.
Regarding the objectives for this 3rd flight, this is a post from SpaceX:

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.
  • #221
It's now on the SpaceX website:

It's expected that the launch will put it on a similar trajectory as planned for the earlier flights. If the deorbit burn fails it'll fall down near Hawaii, if it succeeds it will shorten the trajectory to enter over the Indian ocean.

Timeline from the website, I added my estimates for the locations:
00:08:35 Starship engine cutoff <- south-west of Florida
00:11:56 Payload door open <- a bit north of Puerto Rico
00:24:31 Propellant transfer demo <- central Atlantic
00:28:21 Payload door close <- central Atlantic
00:40:46 Raptor in-space relight demo <- over Madagascar or so
00:49:05 Starship entry <- Indian ocean, around 25 S 80 E
01:02:16 Starship is transonic <- Indian ocean, near Australia
01:03:04 Starship is subsonic <- Indian ocean, near Australia
01:04:39 An exciting landing! <- Indian ocean, near Australia
  • #222
According to NASA Space Flight, the explosives for the Flight Termination System have been installed.
Since one goal is to minimize the handling of those explosives, installing them reflects confidence that the next time the ship travels, it will be vertically.
Stage 2 and the booster were mated on the launch pad just a moment ago.
The FAA go-ahead is still pending.
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  • #223
I'm ready to see this thing reenter .. and I have been since it was described about 8 years ago.
At that time, it was ITR (Interplanetary Transportation System) and its method of reentry included perforations in the shell to vent steam - a fast-falling steam iron. It sounded ... hopeful.

Since then, the name has changed from ITS to BFR to Starship; the reentry system has become somewhat less radical; the shell material has settled in with a kind of stainless steel, and a "stage 0" has been added.

Its main competitor has gone from a soon-to-be-launched NASA SLS with a 7 year head start to a soon-to-be retired NASA SLS with about 18 months left of that head start.

Musk has his eyes on Mars. But the most immediate effect of a successful Startship reentry will be to open up much, much easier access to Earth orbit.
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  • #224
Update from Eric Berger
I've been told a license is indeed likely to come today. (That is not a guarantee.) As for a Thursday launch attempt, the winds may be a bit of a concern. The hardware is ready. So some uncertainty, but a Thursday launch remains possible.
After Thursday the weather will get worse, so a delay will likely be several days long. Starship is designed to fly in almost all weather conditions thanks to its size but won't do that for an early test flight.
  • #225
I find the current situation very entertaining: The IFT-3 launch is set for tomorrow morning. The FAA has still not issued the required launch license. And nobody's worried about that.

The status of all the various government preparations are described in this WCCTech news article.
The article starts out:
Even as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is yet to issue an updated launch license for SpaceX's upcoming third Starship test flight due on Thursday, the agency's notice to pilots and the Coast Guard's notice to mariners share that the gears are turning. The FAA's operations plan advisory and its NOTAM are both live and mention Thursday as the day ITF-3 will take place. The airspace management agency is joined by the Coast Guard's mariner notice, which also mentions a similar date, indicating that just like the second Starship test flight, SpaceX will launch as soon as it receives the FAA's approval for the third Starship test flight.

This is actually a very good sign. It means that SpaceX is fully cooperative and fully participating in the regulatory process.

I have been centrally involved as an engineer on a US Govt contract in getting major mission-critical systems approved. There are basically three roles in the work and discussions leading up to approval: The contractor management, the engineering staff, and the technical regulatory staff. And there are basically two ways of working through the audits: as an adversary or as a partner.

In this case, the "contractor management" is SpaceX - and since the system being approved by the government is their system, their role is more "applicant management" than "contractor management". They seem to be solidly promoting and supporting the "partnership" strategy. They aren't happy with the speed of the of the FAA process and have responded by going directly to Congress asking that staffing at that FAA office be doubled. More importantly, they must be allowing what I would call a "normal conversation" between the SpaceX engineers and the FAA regulators. This "normal conversation" means that the engineers not only understand the "paperwork" and procedures - but also the purposes of those procedures. It means that they have fully adopted the basic FAA goals and are not only compliant with FAA-specified or FAA-suggested methods but are invested in the purposes behind those methods. In the ideal case, the SpaceX engineers are actively advancing the regulatory technology to mate well with their evolving rocket technology.
  • #226
Here is the launch license
Changed paragraph 4(b)(iv) from “Orbital Flight Test 2” to “Flight 3.”

Let's go. The 110 minute launch window opens 7:00 local time, 12:00 UTC, that is 11 hours and 18 minutes after this post.
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  • #227
Propellant loading has started. Now targeting 8:25 (in 40 min).
They had some boats in the area that has to be empty.

Everyday Astronaut

The booster loads propellant at a rate of more than 1 tonne per second.
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  • #228
3 minutes
Propellant loading finished.

If needed, they can hold at T-40 seconds for up to 15 minutes.
  • #229
Successful launch!
Everything worked on ascent. We got awesome shots from the vehicle in flight.

The booster performed its boostback burn, but lost control shortly at the time of the planned landing burn and crashed into the ocean.
The ship is in an almost-orbital trajectory as planned.

Edit: Updates from SpaceX
Pez door checkout complete, door closing, and HD views are over @Starlink
Propellant transfer demo complete

No engine relight in space, reentry coming up.

We got some live video of the early reentry. This is completely unprecedented. Normally you would lose connection - even telemetry - and only get data later. They lost connection later deeper in the atmosphere, to be seen if the ship is still intact.

Edit: Doesn't look good for the ship, but they got data from the first part of the reentry.
Edit: Ship was lost during reentry.
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  • #230
Really impressive progress, I would say.

Ps.: I wonder if there was some particular reason why they went with those grid-fins open all the way?
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  • #231
Got roughly as far as I expected. Great progress. The launch part was flawless. This is an operational rocket that can launch over 200 tonnes of payload to space (and >100 tonnes of its own mass) when reuse isn't considered. Reuse still needs more work, obviously.



Methane burns so cleanly that you don't see the exhaust from the onboard views at all.


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  • #232
Has there been a discussion of the exhaust profile on these rockets? When I look at the pictures of it in flight, it looks like the outer engines form a curtain that keeps the exhaust from the central engines contained such that they form a wave pattern within the curtain. I would guess that helps to increase thrust and burn efficiency.

EDIT: I forgot to also mention the ability to move the engines could contribute as well.

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  • #233
I would guess that's some bit messed up Mach diamonds. With that many tightly packed engines working parallel it's reasonable that they could work bit like one big engine.
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  • #234
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  • #235
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  • #236
mfb said:
Starship is already the most revolutionary rocket ever built

The rolling motion of the ship prevented the relight demo. It was still rolling a lot when starting reentry so it probably contributed to the issues there, too.
It was too revolutionary!
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  • #239
The booster has made a static fire as well now.

Long update on Starship and more

Flight 4 will try to land the booster on a "virtual tower", a precise spot over the ocean surface. If that succeeds, flight 5 might try to land on the actual tower. This animation could become a real video later this year. For the ship they hope to get through the hottest phase of reentry with flight 4, but returning a ship to the launch site will need at least two successful reentries and maybe more - if it breaks up on a return to launch site attempt the debris would fall over Mexico or the US.
  • #242
It is a (planned) launch date! SpaceX has filed a notice to mariners (NOTMAR) along the flight path.
  • #243
Re; Starship4, the FAA says go for it.
  • #244
gleem said:
Re; Starship4, the FAA says go for it.
I'm guessing that it was a little more formal than that. :oldwink:
  • #245
Borg said:
I'm guessing that it was a little more formal than that. :oldwink:
Yes, the quote omitted the last word "dude". :wink:
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