Following the second integrated test flight of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle on Saturday, the company’s CEO, Elon Musk, has said the world’s most powerful rocket will be ready to go again before year-end.
In a social media post shared on Monday, Musk wrote: “Starship Flight 3 hardware should be ready to fly in 3 to 4 weeks,” adding that the necessary hardware is in “final production.”
But while SpaceX may be ready to fly the Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft (collectively known as the Starship) in December, it doesn’t mean it will actually get the vehicle airborne then as it first needs a launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Soon after Saturday’s flight, the FAA wrote on social media that the agency will oversee a SpaceX-led investigation into the failed mission. Once that is complete, the FAA will be able to consider issuing a launch permit for the Starship’s third flight.
Like the first uncrewed test flight in April, the second flight ended in explosive fashion, though SpaceX engineers deemed it a success for achieving stage separation and for flying longer than the initial effort in the spring.
The SpaceX team was also pleased to see that its newly designed launchpad comfortably handled the Super Heavy’s colossal 17 million pounds of thrust — nearly double that of NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket — with Musk commenting afterwards that it was in “great condition.”
This marked a major improvement over the previous pad, which was completely destroyed by the immense force and pressure from the Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor engines during April’s launch. The pad’s obliteration sent concrete and other debris over a wide area, forcing SpaceX engineers to come up with something far more robust.
SpaceX hopes to one day use the Starship for crewed missions to the moon, Mars, and beyond, but clearly there is still much testing to be completed before this can happen. What Musk and his team will be hoping is for a greater frequency of test flights so that it can move toward its ambitious goal at a quicker pace.
If you missed Saturday’s launch, then check out these extraordinary images captured as the 400-foot-tall rocket roared toward space.
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