The spacecraft is stacked and ready for its second launch attempt – Ars Technica
On Tuesday, SpaceX placed its Starship rocket atop a Super Heavy booster in south Texas, making final preparations for a second launch attempt for the massive vehicle.
And after the stacking operations were completed, SpaceX founder Elon Musk Posted on the X website Formerly known as Twitter, that “Starship is ready to launch, pending FAA approval.”
The caveat is significant because the FAA is still reviewing paperwork and data from SpaceX about the Starship’s first launch attempt in April 2023. That flight ended after about 90 seconds due to engine and other booster issues. The FAA has reviewed data from this accident, including environmental impacts at the launch site and delayed activation of the missile’s flight termination system.
In the aftermath of this incident, SpaceX prepared and submitted an “Incident Investigation Report” to the FAA. After reviewing the report, the FAA will determine corrective actions the company must take before its second test flight to ensure the safety of people, property and wildlife near the south Texas launch site, which is surrounded by wetlands and the Gulf of Mexico. .
Asked about the progress of this regulatory approval, an FAA spokesperson said Wednesday morning that additional information may be provided soon. If so, this story will be updated.
Tuesday’s stacking came after a period of frantic activity at the South Texas launch site this summer to prepare the ground systems and the rocket for a second launch attempt. During the first flight in April, the lack of a sound suppression system resulted in significant damage, including the tearing of concrete pieces from the launch pad that sent debris raining miles around the Starbase site in South Texas. SpaceX then built and tested a new water float and flame deflector below the spacecraft’s launch pad.
The company’s engineers have also worked to upgrade the interface between the first-stage rocket and the spacecraft module in the upper stage. This is now called a “hot staging loop”, which would theoretically allow the engines of the spacecraft’s upper stage to ignite before the Super Heavy first stage can complete its combustion. This is a tricky maneuver, but if successful, it will increase the launch vehicle’s performance from mass to orbit.
In recent weeks, SpaceX has also completed two hot-fire tests of the Booster 9 rocket, as well as tests of the upper stage of the Starship, Ship 25. The hardware has largely passed these tests.
During the upcoming test flight, Starship will not carry any payloads but will instead seek to demonstrate the performance of the Starship’s 33 Raptor rocket engines, the separation stage, and ignition of the six Starship engines. Under a symbolic flight, the spacecraft will complete nearly three-quarters of its orbit around Earth before touching down in the Pacific Ocean, north of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
The launch date is pending regulatory approval, but is not expected before mid-September.