SpaceX's Super Heavy booster and Starship rocket undergoing a countdown rehearsal, ahead of the third test flight, at the Starbase Launch Complex in Texas. Credits: SpaceX

SpaceX Plans a March 14th Launch of Third Starship Flight

SpaceX gears up for its third Starship flight test on March 14th, following successful prelaunch preparations and awaiting regulatory evaluations

The third orbital test flight of SpaceX’s Starship could launch as soon as March 14th. A (hidden) tweet published by SpaceX on X unveiled the live stream link for the Starship upcoming test flight slated for March 14th, set to start at 7:30 am local time (11:30 UTC) at the Starbase, TX, facility.

Although SpaceX has yet to issue an official statement regarding this event, enthusiasts all around the world are eagerly awaiting the spectacle.


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The licensing status

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently concluded its investigation into the incident involving SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy Orbital Test Flight 2 (OTF-2), which occurred on November 18, 2023.

Despite the closure of the inquiry, it’s essential to note that this doesn’t automatically grant clearance for the next Starship launch. SpaceX must adhere to a standard protocol, which involves implementing all necessary corrective measures and securing a launch license modification from the FAA. This process mirrors the steps taken following previous test flights.

Starship clears the launch pad during its second orbital test flight. Credits: SpaceX
Starship clears the launch pad during its second orbital test flight. Credits: SpaceX

“The FAA is currently assessing SpaceX’s license modification request and anticipates the submission of additional requisite details before rendering a final decision,” stated the agency on February 26th.

In response to an inquiry by Space Voyaging, the FAA confirmed on March 5th that as of the present time, there are no updates regarding SpaceX’s application for a Starship license modification.

While this lack of news doesn’t rule out a launch on the 14th, it suggests that SpaceX is still in the process of submitting the necessary paperwork.


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Pre-launch preparations

In recent weeks, SpaceX has undertaken pre-launch preparations, including a successful full Wet Dress Rehearsal.

During the test, SpaceX filled the stainless-steel Starship rocket and its Super Heavy booster with over 10 million pounds of liquid methane and liquid oxygen propellant at the Starbase facility near Boca Chica Beach. The countdown rehearsal concluded as planned at T-minus 10 seconds, after which the propellant was drained from the vehicle.

Notably, the SpaceX Team achieved the feat of loading the whole vehicle in approximately 45 minutes, a significant improvement over the previous duration of ~90 minutes.

SpaceX's Super Heavy booster and Starship rocket undergoing a countdown rehearsal, ahead of the third test flight, at the Starbase Launch Complex in Texas. Credits: SpaceX
SpaceX’s Super Heavy booster and Starship rocket undergoing a countdown rehearsal, ahead of the third test flight, at the Starbase Launch Complex in Texas. Credits: SpaceX

This efficiency can be attributed to enhancements and adjustments made to the ground infrastructure, also called Stage 0, at the Starbase Launch Complex. Various upgrades to hardware, tank configurations, system enhancements, and procedural modifications have contributed to this streamlined process.

Preceding the launch, SpaceX must return Ship 28 to Earth for technicians to install the Flight Termination System’s explosive charges. These charges must be armed before reattaching the ship to the booster for the final full stack before launch.

For the upcoming flight, SpaceX aims to conduct preliminary testing of in-space refueling technology, crucial for future missions such as lunar expeditions for NASA.

In fact, the Starship and Super Heavy booster represent SpaceX’s endeavor to develop the world’s most powerful and fully reusable rocket, capable of carrying up to 165 tons into orbit. NASA has choosen Starship as the vehicle for landing its astronauts on the Moon as part of the Artemis III lunar mission, now slated for 2026.

However, before thinking about Moon milestones, SpaceX must successfully execute a Starship orbital flight, with the Ship approaching a simil-orbital insertion.

Busy days at SpaceX

Simultaneously, while SpaceX’s team in Texas managed the Starship countdown rehearsal, Team in Florida’s Space Coast overseed a Falcon 9 Crewed launch countdown. This particular launch, carrying three NASA astronauts and one Russian cosmonaut aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour spacecraft for the Crew-8 Mission, occurred from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from HLC-39A in Florida carrying the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft to the ISS with 4 astronauts on board. Credits: SpaceX
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifting off from HLC-39A in Florida carrying the Dragon Endeavour spacecraft to the ISS with 4 astronauts on board. Credits: SpaceX

This Falcon 9 launch marked the first of three scheduled within a 20-hour timeframe. Subsequent launches included a mission from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California, carrying 53 small payloads onboard SpaceX’s 10th Transporter rideshare mission, and another from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, deploying 23 additional Starlink satellites for SpaceX’s Internet network.

Notably, the latter two launches achieved the shortest time separation to date between two SpaceX launches, at just 1 hour and 51 minutes. All three Falcon 9 launches concluded with successful landings of the rockets’ first stage boosters.


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Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

Co-Founder & Administrator. Drummer and Red Cross Volunteer, born in 1997. I like analog photography and videomaking. Firmly music-addicted.

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