June 23, 2024


Photo: Brandon Bell (Getty Images)

The fourth time’s the charm, according to SpaceX. Elon Musk’s aerospace company is preparing for the next test of its Starship spacecraft, a fully reusable megarocket designed to travel to the Moon and Mars that last went up in the air in March.

The launch window for the latest flight test opens as early as 8 a.m. ET on Thursday. The livestream, which will open about 30 minutes before launch, can be viewed on SpaceX’s website or on the company’s X (formerly Twitter) account.

SpaceX first unveiled plans for the 400-foot Starship in 2017 before making its first launch attempt in April 2023. In that attempt, the Starship failed, as did SpaceX’s self-destruction system. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigated the incident and gave approval for a second flight in November, which showed a better performance before it exploded — twice — just minutes into the air.

The hope is that Thursday’s attempt will be more successful — and there’s reason to believe that might be the case. SpaceX’s third test created a wealth of new data that showed a lack any critical safety issues, according to the FAA, although its upper stage fell to pieces on reentry and the company was forced to explode the Super Heavy booster above the Gulf of Mexico. On May 23, SpaceX completed its second wet dress rehearsal with two stacked prototype stages.

The Starship rocket has received “several software and hardware upgrades” to address issues from the last test. SpaceX will also make some operational changes to improve performance. Like the last test, the fourth flight aims to splash down in the Indian Ocean.

“We’re continuing to rapidly develop Starship, putting flight hardware in a flight environment to learn as quickly as possible as we build a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond,” SpaceX said in a statement.

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