SpaceX Starship Launch #3

What We Know: Flight 3 Starship and Super Heavy Boosters moved to the pad.

SpaceX Starship Launch #3

Now what?

Starship and Booster 10 have been moved to the launchpad and have already been stacked, meaning a launch could theoretically happen anywhere in the next week(s). We're saying theoretically, because the FAA (U.S. Federal Aviation Administration) has yet to approve this launch.

When will Starship launch?

This is really hard to say, although speculations estimate we will see the next launch in early March. Anything prior to this is unrealistic for the FAA to approve and would most-likely mean too little prep-time for the SpaceX crew.

Where is Starship going?

Well, essentially, nowhere. These are just IFTs (Integrated Flight Tests) that target a flight to orbit and a return to Earth with the best-case scenario being a successful landing of both the Booster and the upper stage.

What happened to the 2 flights before?

During the first Integrated Flight Test, Super Heavy Booster 7 was planned to splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico with the upper stage "landing ☄️" in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. Due to unsuccessful Stage Seperation, the Flight Termination System detonated the integrated Starship mid-air.

Due to problems with Stage Seperation, SpaceX decided to try Hot Staging for the second Integrated Flight Test. Usually, Stage Seperation occurs through pneumatic pushers that are integrated into the Interstage between rocket sections.

Falcon 9 rocket with the black interstage band

The black band at the upper middle part of the Falcon 9 is called the Interstage. It comes with pneumatic pushers that cut the connection between the upper and lower stage of the Falcon so the payload can seperate from the Booster.

In contrast, Hot Staging is a much less elegant but probably more reliable way of seperating stages: The engines from the upper stage are ignited and fired to force seperation from the lower stage.

The Hot Staging process in the second IFT was successful and as a notable side-fact, all 33 engines fired for the entire flight duration, whereas atleast 6 engines shut off during the first IFT.

Notable side fact: All 33 engines fired for the entire flight duration, whereas atleast 6 engines shut off during the first IFT.

Sadly, during an attempt to execute a flip maneuver and the boostback burn to return the booster to the launch site, said Booster was lost, together with the Starship shortly after, causing SpaceX to detonate both of them to minimize undesired side effects.

Now let's just hope everything goes well in this Flight Test so that the manned Artemis 2 mission around the mooon set for September 2025 doesn't get rescheduled.