SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, is preparing for the long-awaited second test flight of its colossal Starship rocket.
The second Starship test flight is tentatively scheduled for Friday, 17 November, at the Boca Chica (Texas) facility, although the exact launch time is unknown. This milestone is intended to validate the functionality of the "hot stage separation system and a new thrust vector control (TVC) electronics system for the Super Heavy Raptor engines". The overall objective is to establish a reliable and reusable transportation system for space travel.
While awaiting approval from the US aviation regulator, SpaceX plans to repeat the steps of its first launch attempt. This involves ascending until the two stages of the rocket separate and the spacecraft ignites its engines. The rocket will then take to the skies before making a controlled descent near the island of Kauai, Hawaii, while the Super Heavy booster lands safely in the Gulf of Mexico after executing a vertical manoeuvre.
During this launch, Elon Musk's company will also test reinforcements at the base of the pad and a water-cooled steel flame deflector.
SpaceX plans to begin a live webcast of the flight test approximately 30 minutes before liftoff. However, the schedule is dynamic and subject to change, as indicated on the official SpaceX website.
The flight schedule and profile shared by SpaceX closely resembles the April test, which requires a 90-minute flight of the Starship rocket's upper stage to complete nearly a full orbit before splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near Kauai.
Initially, the rocket will ascend for 2 minutes and 39 seconds until Booster 9 shuts down its engines. Two seconds later, Starship 25 will start its engines to separate and begin flight. At 2:53 minutes, Booster 9 will restart its engines to manoeuvre a turn.
In addition, this second test flight introduces a hot stage separation system and a new thrust vector control electronics system for the Super Heavy Raptor engines, along with platform base reinforcements and a water-cooled steel flame deflector. These improvements are crucial to building a fully reusable transport system capable of carrying crew and cargo to Earth orbit, facilitating mankind's return to the Moon and ultimately enabling travel to Mars.
Starship's maiden flight on 20 April, although successful, faced difficulties as some of its 33 Raptor engines failed to ignite. Within minutes of flying over Boca Chica, Texas, the rocket exploded, causing significant damage to SpaceX's Starbase pad and impacting the surrounding area.
The mishaps prompted SpaceX to improve the Starship design and conduct a thorough investigation, submitting a "mishap investigation report" to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). After months of work and satisfactory safety reviews, the FAA concluded its assessment on 31 October, clearing the way for the long-awaited second test flight, pending final approval from Elon Musk.
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