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SpaceX tentatively sets third Starship test flight for March 14
SpaceX tentatively sets third Starship test flight for March 14
by Clyde Hughes
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 7, 2024

SpaceX plans to launch the third test flight of its Starship rocket as early as March 14 pending regulatory approval.

SpaceX stressed that the date is likely to change, which is common when it comes to developmental testing.

SpaceX said its third test flight will try successful ascent burns on its first and second stages, open and close Starship payload doors, perform a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage's coast phase and a re-light of a Raptor engine while in space.

If everything goes well, SpaceX said it would also like to pull off a controlled re-entry of Starship -- the largest vehicle ever built to be lifted to space -- to have it splash down at a point in the Indian Ocean.

"This new flight path enables us to attempt new techniques like in-space engine burns while maximizing public safety," SpaceX said. "This rapid iterative development approach has been the basis for all of SpaceX's major innovative advancements, including Falcon, Dragon and Starlink.

"Recursive improvement is essential as we work to build a fully reusable transportation system capable of carrying both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, help humanity return to the moon and ultimately travel to Mars and beyond."

The first test flight last April, where the Starship exploded minutes after takeoff, resulted in a wave of criticism for the debris left in the Gulf of Mexico after its launch from South Texas, damage to its launch.

The Federal Aviation Administration took months before granting SpaceX clearance for the second test flight until several corrective actions were taken over the design and launch.

Last November, SpaceX saw the successful separation of Starship's first and second stages before going through a "rapid unscheduled disassembly."

SpaceX, however, said that those were all part of the processes needed to meet its objectives of sending humans to the moon and possibly Mars.

"Starship's second flight test achieved a number of major milestones and provided invaluable data to continue rapidly developing Starship," SpaceX said in a statement. "Each of these flight tests continues to be just that: a test.

"They aren't occurring in a lab or on a test stand but are putting flight hardware in a flight environment to maximize learning."

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