SpaceX Is Preparing for the Next Starship Launch

We’re still not over the sight of SpaceX’s Starship rocket exploding in a fiery flame following its first-ever liftoff, but the company is reportedly ready to see its heavy-duty launch vehicle fly once again.

On Tuesday, the company’s CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter that Starship’s next flight test will take place in six to eight weeks. Starship launched for the first time on April 20 for a less-than-ideal test flight in which a few of the rocket’s engines failed in flight and the two-stage heavy-lift launch vehicle was forced to self-destruct. It also took the rocket 40 seconds to respond to the self-destruct command, another worrying aspect of its debut flight.

Starship’s first launch sent a cloud of dust and debris to the surrounding area, causing damage to the launchpad. SpaceX is reportedly repairing the launchpad and adding upgrades to prevent future damage, including installing a water deluge system at its Starbase facility in South Texas. The company recently tested its water-cooled steel plate against the mighty fire from one of the rocket’s engines.

SpaceX also moved its next Starship prototype, Ship 25, to the launch mount ahead of a static fire test, Teslarati reported. The static fire test will fire the second stage’s six Raptor engines. Ship 25 will be mounted atop Booster 9 for the upcoming test flight. The booster has some upgrades compared to the one that was used for April’s test flight, namely the switch from hydraulic thrust vector controls to electric thrust vector controls, which is aimed at preventing Starship’s anomaly during its first liftoff, according to Teslarati.

With all these repairs underway, SpaceX still needs the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to launch Starship for a second test flight. The administration grounded Starship pending an ongoing investigation into its botched flight. The FAA is also battling a lawsuit related to the botched launch, which prompted a coalition of conservation and Texas-local non-profit groups to sue over its approval of SpaceX’s Starship activities in Boca Chica. SpaceX recently filed to fight alongside the FAA in this lawsuit.

SpaceX isn’t the only entity waiting to see Starship fly. NASA is also eager for Starship’s upcoming test since SpaceX is under a $2.89 billion contract to use a lunar lander version of its Starship rocket in landing humans on the Moon by late 2025 as part of the space agency’s Artemis 3 mission, and then again for Artemis 4 in 2028, under a separate $1.15 billion contract signed last year. Jim Free, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration systems development, recently expressed concern that the Artemis 3 mission could suffer delays due to Starship.

Musk’s ambitious timeline is pretty on brand for the rocket CEO, who kept promising fictitious launch dates for Starship’s first test flight that never materialized until the rocket finally took off earlier this year…and then exploded.

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