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Updated December 20th, 2023 at 19:57 IST

SpaceX teases Starship launch 3 with new pictures from 'Gateway to Mars'

SpaceX is gearing up for the launch vehicle's third fully-integrated orbital flight after the second one on November 18.

Harsh Vardhan
spacex
Starship's upper stage at the launch pad at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. | Image:SpaceX
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SpaceX has put its fans on the edge of their seat again with new pictures of the Starship rocket. The company is gearing up for the launch vehicle's third fully-integrated orbital flight after the relatively successful second one on November 18.

The mission was relatively successful than the first mission on April 20 in the sense that it was able to make it past the stage separation and lifted off without destroying the launch pad. Earlier on December 18, SpaceX posted pictures of the Super Heavy Booster which was hauled to the launch pad at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, for testing.

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"Flight 3 vehicles on the pad at Starbase for testing ahead of Starship's next launch," SpaceX captioned the post but did not specify a timeline for the next mission. 

The Super Heavy Booster on its way to the launch pad. Image: SpaceX

 

The Super Heavy Booster on the launch tower. Image: SpaceX
Starship's upper stage at the launch pad, Boca Chica, Texas. Image: SpaceX

It is quite possible that Starship will not launch before early 2024 as it has to make improvements on some fronts before flight 3. In the second test flight, both the Booster and the upper stage exploded few minutes after lift off which caught the attention of the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA issued a statement just a few hours after the mishap regarding the loss of the vehicle. "The FAA will oversee the SpaceX-led mishap investigation to ensure SpaceX complies with its FAA-approved mishap investigation plan and other regulatory requirements," it said.

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Starship lifting off in its second test flight. Image: SpaceX

While the Super Heavy Booster exploded seconds after stage-separation, the upper stage was lost later on due to failure in signal acquisition, SpaceX team said during the launch commentary. 

Although, SpaceX was able to save the launch pad unlike flight 1 thanks to the newly installed water deluge system. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, however, was never 100% confident of a successful test flight but said that Starship would have a decent chance of reaching orbit if all 33 engines on the Super Heavy Booster ignited, which they did. 

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It is worth mentioning that SpaceX is way behind schedule in developing Starship which is now highly likely to push NASA's Artemis 3 to 2027. NASA has awarded SpaceX with over $4 billion worth of contract to develop Starship for landing astronauts on the Moon by 2025, but a recent report suggested that it could be delayed by at least two years. 

 

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Published December 20th, 2023 at 19:57 IST

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