This weekend, SpaceX conducted the second test flight of the largest spacecraft in human history, Starship. While there were seven months between the first and second flights, the next test flight could happen by mid-December.
SpaceX continues to pursue its ambition to create a spacecraft capable of carrying large payloads over long distances in space. This could help humanity become a multi-planetary species and give us a chance to survive even in the event of some kind of catastrophe on Earth. As part of these aspirations, SpaceX built the largest spacecraft in human history, Starship, and a huge booster, Super Heavy, which would launch it into orbit. The first test was carried out in April, which provided a large amount of data for improving the vehicle, its systems, and the launch pad.
SpaceX made more than one thousand improvements to ensure that the next test flight would be a success. Among them included installing a flame deflector, or water deluge system, at Starship’s launch pad. The water system consists of a steel plate under the rocket through which high-pressure water jets are fired. It is needed to compensate for the thermal and acoustic energy of the 33 Raptor engines. Having made full preparations, in early October, Elon Musk said that the likelihood of Starship reaching orbit on its second test flight is good. He said during the International Astronautical Federation’s annual conference that the introduction of “hot-staging” to the rocket was the “riskiest part of flight two.”
“If the engines light and the ship doesn’t blow itself up during stage stuff, then I think we’ve got a decent chance to reach orbit,” Musk said.
Test Flight 2 took place this weekend and SpaceX achieved great success. The rocket, about 120 meters high, took off confidently. Super Heavy, with its 33 Raptor engines, lifted Starship to a predetermined altitude and separated. It completed its main task, although a few seconds later it exploded. The upper stage, Starship, continued its flight, reached an altitude of about 140 kilometers and entered space before contact with it was lost.
The goal of this flight test was to reach space, and it succeeded. SpaceX hoped that, in addition to entering Earth’s orbit in the process, Starship would then descend and splash down near Hawaii. The main goal has been achieved and now the team must collect and process data to improve the vehicle and its operation before the next test flight. According to Musk, the company currently has three Starships in the final stages of construction. One of them could be ready for the next test flight in 3-4 weeks—that is, somewhere in mid-December. While the spacecraft may be ready by then, approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) may not be as quick.
Starship Flight 3 hardware should be ready to fly in 3 to 4 weeks. There are three ships in final production in the high bay (as can be seen from the highway).
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 20, 2023