Starship and Super Heavy ascending during the second test flight. Credits: SpaceX

Starship Third Flight: SpaceX Revealed the Plan

SpaceX's third Starship flight aims for ambitious milestones, including engine relight in space, booster landing and propellant transfer

Following this morning’s article on SpaceX’s plans for the third Starship flight, the company has now officially announced the attempt on their website.

Scheduled for March 14, still pending regulatory approval as outlined by the company, this flight aims to expand on lessons learned from the previous two test flight, while undertaking a series of totally new ambitious objectives for SpaceX and the Starship program.

With the official announcement, SpaceX has also provided a detailed countdown and flight test timeline, offering insights into the sequence of events leading up to and during the flight.


Advertisement

New goals and testing

The approach to this flight reflects SpaceX’s hallmark of rapid iterative development, which has been applied also to the company’s previous major innovations such as Falcon, Dragon, and Starlink.

This iterative improvement process is crucial as SpaceX aims to construct a fully reusable transportation system capable of ferrying both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, facilitating humanity’s return to the Moon, and ultimately enabling interplanetary travel to Mars and beyond.

So, what’s new for this flight?

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

The ascent burn of both stages is the first milestone to look out for, of course. One notable goal of this test launch that was never attempted before is the successful opening and closing of Starship’s payload door while the ship is coasting, after engines cutoff.

A propellant transfer demonstration will also happen, hopefully, during the upper stage’s coast phase, nearly 13 minutes after the payload door test.

Additionally, SpaceX plans to achieve the first-ever re-light of a Raptor engine while in space, roughly 40 minutes into the flight. The icing on the cake would be to conduct a controlled reentry of Starship, with a splashdown targeted in the Indian Ocean.

Interestingly, this new flight path enables the testing of this additional milestones “while prioritizing public safety”, as noted by the company. On the previous two flights, the ship was scheduled to splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.


Advertisement

New flight, new countdown

The countdown has also changed compared to the previous flight test.

This time, it begins approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes before liftoff, with the SpaceX Flight Director conducting a poll and verifying readiness for propellant load. Subsequent milestones include the commencement of LOX and fuel loading for both the ship and booster stages, which this time will only happen approximately 53 minutes before liftoff instead of ~90.

SpaceX’s Starship Third Integrated Flight Test Flight Path Infographic. Credits: SpaceX
SpaceX’s Starship Third Integrated Flight Test Flight Path Infographic. Credits: SpaceX

Final verifications for launch will take place 30 seconds before liftoff, with the engine ignition starting at T-3 seconds. Once the countdown reaches zero, the flight test timeline kicks off with more or less the same events of IFT-2: liftoff, Max Q (the moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket), booster engine cutoff and the hot-stage separation, which worked well on the previous flight.

Speaking about the booster, SpaceX hopes this time to complete a full boostback burn (with successful engines restart), followed by a landing burn which will bring the first stage to a soft vertical landing in the Gulf Of Mexico.

The launch license modification is the only items to wait now.


Advertisement

Share this article:
Edoardo Giammarino

Edoardo Giammarino

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *