Starship Flight 3 NET launch date set to March 14 with a new flight and splashdown trajectory



SpaceX announced earlier today that the 3rd Starship orbital flight test is set to be conducted as soon as 14th March (next Thursday).

Elon Musk’s spaceflight company SpaceX made this announcement on X (formerly Twitter) and its official website. Taking into account multiple factors, we reported yesterday that the Starship Flight 3 is most probably going to happen within March.

“The third flight test of Starship could launch as soon as March 14, pending regulatory approval,” SpaceX posted the announcement on X.

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The upper stage Starship 28 prototype in an aerial drone camera image taken at SpaceX Starbase, Texas around 2 weeks before the expected Flight 3 (IFT-3) NET March 14, 2024.
The upper stage Starship 28 prototype in an aerial drone camera image taken at SpaceX Starbase, Texas around 2 weeks before the expected Flight 3 (IFT-3) NET March 14, 2024. Credit: SpaceX via X (Twitter).

The official SpaceX statement suggests that the company is still waiting for the final FAA approval. For the 2nd Starship flight last year, the FAA granted the license just a few days before the launch.

The FAA usually publishes licenses on its official website on Wednesdays, next week’s Wednesday is just a day before the Mar 14 expected Flight 3 date. If the license does not come in time, SpaceX might use a backup flight window which is most probably within 24 – 48 hours.

However, SpaceX has given the NET March 14th date taking into account the FAA license expected to be granted soon. Washington Post’s space journalist Christian Davenport posted earlier today on X (Twitter) that he has been told the Starship Flight 3 approval is “very close”.

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SpaceX has not de-stacked the Starship at Starbase after Sunday’s wet dress rehearsal. This indicates that SpaceX is going to keep Starship 28 on the Orbital Launch Mount (OLM) till the Integrated Flight Test 3 (IFT-3).

Starship Flight 3 is also called IFT-3 because when the upper stage/2nd stage of Starship is mounted on a Super Heavy rocket booster, it is called a “fully integrated” Starship. So, technically when this fully integrated Starship goes through an orbital flight test, it’s called an IFT. Since this is the 3rd time such a test going to happen, the space community has given it the name of IFT-3 (the term is trending on X as of this writing).

With the Starship IFT-3, SpaceX has changed the trajectory of the orbital launch. SpaceX plans to splashdown the Starship 28 in the Indian Ocean this time instead of the Gulf of Mexico (the path for the 2nd flight).

“It will also fly a new trajectory, with Starship targeted to splashdown in the Indian Ocean,” SpaceX wrote in an official blog post. “This new flight path enables us to attempt new techniques like in-space engine burns while maximizing public safety,” the company stated.

According to the latest ground reports from Starbase, Boca Chica, Texas by, SpaceX engineers have been busy replacing the thermal protection system (TPS) heat shield tiles on Ship 28 upper stage. This usually happens to maximize the heat shielding on re-entry burn (entering the atmosphere

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Here’s the SpaceX Starship IFT-3 official announcement in its entirety:

A live webcast of the flight test will begin about 30 minutes before liftoff, which you can watch here and on X @SpaceX. As is the case with all developmental testing, the schedule is dynamic and likely to change, so be sure to stay tuned to our X account for updates.

Starship’s second flight test achieved a number of major milestones and provided invaluable data to continue rapidly developing Starship. Each of these flight tests continue to be just that: a test. They aren’t occurring in a lab or on a test stand, but are putting flight hardware in a flight environment to maximize learning.

The third flight test aims to build on what we’ve learned from previous flights while attempting a number of ambitious objectives, including the successful ascent burn of both stages, opening and closing Starship’s payload door, a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage’s coast phase, the first ever re-light of a Raptor engine while in space, and a controlled reentry of Starship. It will also fly a new trajectory, with Starship targeted to splashdown in the Indian Ocean. This new flight path enables us to attempt new techniques like in-space engine burns while maximizing public safety.

This rapid iterative development approach has been the basis for all of SpaceX’s major innovative advancements, including Falcon, Dragon, and Starlink. Recursive improvement is essential as we work to build a fully reusable transportation system capable of carrying both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, help humanity return to the Moon, and ultimately travel to Mars and beyond.

Stay tuned for future updates on Starship and SpaceX, Follow us on:
Google News | Flipboard | RSS (Feedly).

Iqtidar Ali
Iqtidar Ali
Iqtidar has been writing about Tesla, Elon Musk, and EVs for more than 3 years on, many of his articles have been republished on CleanTechnica and InsideEVs, maintains a healthy relationship with the Tesla community across the Social Media sphere. You can reach him on Twitter @IqtidarAlii


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