Liftoff is currently scheduled for Saturday, November 18th after Elon stated that one of Booster 9’s grid fin actuators needed to be replaced.
Excitement is building in the aerospace community as SpaceX gears up for the second flight test of its fully integrated Starship vehicle from Starbase, Texas. Liftoff is currently scheduled for Saturday, November 18th after Elon stated that one of Booster 9’s grid fin actuators needed to be replaced.The new 20-minute launch window opens at 7:00 a.m. CT, meaning the expected T-0 may vary due to the circumstances of the test.
This flight will mark a crucial step in SpaceX's pursuit of making life multiplanetary, and will further the development of NASA’s Artemis program which plans to send humans back to the Moon to stay.
Ahead of launch, Starship 25 and Booster 9 have been integrated to assume a fully stacked position on the orbital launch platform. SpaceX has recently received its second launch license after some delays involving the Fish and Wildlife Service. With this final step in the list of items needed for flight, Starship is go for launch on the 18th.
Building on the insights gained from Starship's initial flight test, SpaceX has implemented a series of upgrades to both the vehicle and ground infrastructure. These enhancements aim to improve the likelihood of success in future flights. Among the key upgrades featured in the upcoming test is the introduction of a hot staging separation system and a new electronic Thrust Vector Control (TVC) system for the 33 Super Heavy Raptor engines.
Additionally, reinforcements to the pad foundation and the incorporation of a water-cooled steel flame deflector are part of the comprehensive set of improvements. This rapid, iterative development strategy employed by SpaceX has proven to be crucial in the evolution of groundbreaking technologies such as the Falcon 9, Dragon, and Starlink projects. This type of approach is key to SpaceX's goal of constructing a fully and rapidly reusable transportation system capable of carrying both crew and cargo to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and beyond.
Two hours prior to liftoff, the Launch Director will assess weather, vehicle status, and other factors with the launch team to poll go or no go for propellant load and launch. At T-1 hour and 37 minutes, the booster begins to get loaded with liquid methane and Liquid Oxygen (LOX), initiating the propellant loading process. Shortly after, at T-1 hour and 17 minutes, methane is loaded into the Ship, followed by liquid oxygen at T-1 hour and 13 minutes. After propellant loading is complete, Starship will have been fueled with roughly 10 million pounds of propellant.
Approximately 20 minutes before liftoff, the 33 Raptor engines on the booster will undergo chilling to optimize their temperature for ignition. As liftoff approaches, at T-10 seconds, the newly installed water cooled steel plate activates, dampening acoustic energy and protects the pad from most of the damage dealt from Booster 9’s 33 Raptor engines. In the final moments, T-3 seconds, the 33 Raptor engines on Starship’s first stage light up to propel the rocket off the pad.
Assuming Starship has a successful test flight, SpaceX has provided an in flight timeline explaining what critical milestones Starship will encounter during its flight test. This test will give SpaceX valuable data and expand their knowledge of the vehicle. At approximately T+52 seconds, the rocket wil encounter Max Q, experiencing peak loads as it powers through the Earth's atmosphere—a crucial phase in its ascent.
Moving forward to T+2 minutes and 39 seconds, most of Booster 9’s engines shut down, enabling the new hotstaging separation system. This efficient maneuver allows Ship 25 to separate by powering off of the booster’s recently installed hotstaging ring. A few seconds after a successful hotstage, the booster initiates a boostback, returning to land offshore of the launch pad, with a landing expected at T+7 minutes.
As the mission takes a suborbital route, Starship plans to reenter over Hawaii at T+1 hour and 17 minutes, showcasing its heat shield’s high temperature durability. After reentry, Ship 25 is set to bellyflop into the Ocean which is expected to occur at T+1 and a half hours after launch.
The Starship program stands as a testament to SpaceX's commitment to pushing the boundaries of space exploration. When operational, Starship will aid humanity's return to the Moon and ultimately enable interplanetary travel to Mars, with each iteration of Starship representing a step closer to fulfilling their goal.