FLYING Magazine

SpaceX’s Starship, the largest and most powerful rocket ever constructed, will fly again in June, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk predicted over the weekend.

The company’s massive rocket and Super Heavy booster, which when stacked together stand nearly 400 feet tall, have been grounded since March as the FAA conducts a mishap investigation into Starship’s third uncrewed orbital test flight.

However, Musk on Saturday posted an image to social media platform X—which he acquired in October 2022—of Starship and Super Heavy being moved back to the company’s Starbase launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas, which hosted the rocket’s first three test flights.

In response to a query about the date of the fourth flight, called Integrated Flight Test 4 or IFT-4, Musk gave a timeline of three to five weeks. That would place the next launch sometime in June.

Probably 3 to 5 weeks.

Objective is for the ship to get past max heating or at least further than last time.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 11, 2024

SpaceX has a hit-or-miss track record when it comes to predicting Starship launches. Gwynne Shotwell, the company’s chief operating officer, said in March for example that IFT-4 could launch as soon as early May.

During the lead-up to Starship’s second test flight, which ultimately launched in November, Musk gave a timeline of six to eight weeks in April and again in June. In September, he said the rocket was “ready to launch” and was swiftly rebuffed by the FAA. However, on November 3, SpaceX correctly predicted that Starship would launch again by the middle of the month.

Starship’s three test flights have improved on each attempt but resulted in groundings of varying lengths by the FAA. The agency’s initial investigation spanned from April to November. The second took half as long, wrapping up between November and February.

Given the improvements made to Starship and Starbase before the rocket’s second flight test—such as the installation of a water-cooled steel plate beneath the launch pad to contain debris—and the relative success of its third flight test, SpaceX could be looking at a similar timeline of around three months for the current investigation. That would put it in line to close in June, making Musk’s prediction appear feasible.

Musk and SpaceX have already set ambitious goals for Starship’s fourth flight. The biggest will be to survive reentry into Earth’s atmosphere, which is where the previous mission failed. Both Starship and the Super Heavy booster are designed to be reusable.

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The post SpaceX Starship Will Fly Again in 3-5 Weeks, Elon Musk Predicts appeared first on FLYING Magazine.

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