SpaceX Prepares Fourth Starship Test

SpaceX said its Starship launch system may be headed for its fourth test flight in three to five weeks, after the company launched 23 more of its Starlink communications satellites.

“Objective is for the ship to get past max heating or at least further than last time,” said SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk on X, formerly Twitter, which he also owns.

After its most recent launch on 14 March, Starship completed nearly an entire test flight through space, but disintegrated on its return to Earth.

The system is composed of the Super Heavy first-stage booster rocket and the 165-foot-tall Starship upper stage, designed for flights to the Moon or Mars.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying 23 Starlink satellites launches from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on 12 May, 2024. Image credit: SpaceX

Starship test

The full system has launched three times to date, in April and November 2023 and again on 14 March.

Each of those flights originated at Starbase, SpaceX’s launch facility in southern Texas, with each lasting longer and achieving more milestones than the last.

SpaceX plans to eventually carry out Starship launches from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida, where it already carries out launches of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

Time-lapse image showing exhaust from SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on 12 May, 2024. Image credit: SpaceX

The company is currently planning up to 44 Starship launches from LC-39A per year and also wants to land the Super Heavy reusable booster at the site, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently said, plans that require an in-depth environmental impact statement (EIS) before the company can be issued a vehicle operator’s license.

On Sunday SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station carrying the latest 23 Starlink satellites in the 49th orbital mission of 2024 for the company.

SpaceX’s EVA suit. Image credit: SpaceX

Starlink satellites

Thirty-three of the previous 48 launches were dedicated to Starlink, which currently consists of about 5,900 operational satellites.

SpaceX has permission for 12,000 of the devices in low Earth orbit and has applied for approval for another 30,000.

The firm is also planning the first commercial spacewalk as early as this summer in the Polaris Dawn mission, the first of three planned Polaris Programme launches.

SpaceX showed images of the Extravehicular Activity (EVA) suit participants in Polaris Dawn are to use, saying the suit uses new materials, fabrication processes and joint designs for use in unpressurised scenarios.

Image credit: SpaceX
Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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