For the second time this week, SpaceX is preparing for the maiden test flight of Starship, the company’s most ambitious rocket to date and the most powerful rocket ever built. If successful, Starship could become the vehicle of choice to take astronauts back to the moon or perhaps even take humanity on its first-ever journey to Mars.
Starship is poised for liftoff as early as Thursday during a one-hour launch window starting at 8:28 a.m. CT (9:28 a.m. ET). The rocket will be launching from Starbase, SpaceX’s private spaceport at the southernmost point of Texas. Similar to other missions, the Starship test flight will be livestreamed on SpaceX’s website about 45 minutes before the scheduled liftoff.
This will be Starship’s second attempt at a test flight. The rocket was initially set for its maiden flight on Monday, but the launch was halted due to a valve issue. The SpaceX team ended up treating the rest of the launch attempt as a “wet dress rehearsal,” with the private space company going through Starship’s launch steps except for the rocket’s actual liftoff.
The Test Flight
Starship is a very imposing rocket and is comprised of two sections. At its bottom lies the Super Heavy booster, a 230-foot-tall (69 meters) cylinder equipped with 33 engines, and sitting atop it is the 164-foot-tall (50 meters) Starship spacecraft.
Upon ignition, the booster is expected to propel the spacecraft over the Gulf of Mexico toward space. At around two and a half minutes after takeoff, the Super Heavy rocket booster is expected to separate from the Starship spacecraft and descend into the ocean. The Starship spacecraft will then utilize its engines for over six minutes to reach almost orbital speeds.
Starship is expected to complete nearly a full orbit of Earth before re-entering the atmosphere near Hawaii. Provided that everything goes according to plan, Starship would be splashing down in the Pacific Ocean about an hour and a half after it takes off from Texas, as noted in a CNN report.
Elon Musk Sets Expectations
While there is much humor to be inspired by Starship’s possible 4/20 maiden flight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has tempered expectations about the upcoming rocket launch. Musk has noted that “success is not what should be expected… That would be insane,” when it comes to the test flight. Musk would know, considering his vast experience with rocket-building that began way back during Falcon 1’s days from 2006 to 2008.
Starship development has taken place at SpaceX’s Texas spaceport. Early testing of Starship started with “hop tests” of several prototypes, which progressed from short flights a few dozen feet off the ground to high-altitude flights. And while many of the tests ended in massive explosions, one suborbital flight test in May 2021 proved successful. Footage from the test looked like something from a sci-fi movie.
Musk’s tempered expectations for Starship’s maiden test flight should come as no surprise. Back when SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket made its first launch in 2018, Musk estimated only a 50-50 chance of success. At the time, Musk even joked that people came from all over the world to witness either an amazing rocket launch or the best fireworks display they had ever seen. Fortunately, the Falcon Heavy launch was successful, and it provided some of the most iconic images of modern spaceflight in the form of Starman and his red Tesla Roadster floating in space.
SpaceX’s livestream for Starship’s second test flight attempt can be viewed below.
Don’t hesitate to contact us with news tips. Just send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org to give us a heads up.