Elon Musk Spills The Beans On SpaceX’s Third Starship Test Flight

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SpaceX’s Starship rocket is on track for a March test flight attempt, according to fresh statements from the firm’s chief Elon Musk. The second week of February saw renewed activities at the company’s test facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, as SpaceX shipped its latest rocket booster to the launch pad. These rockets will make it to the third test flight, called the Starship Integrated Test Flight (IFT-3), and according to Musk, the rocket should be ready for yet another launch in at least three weeks.

Elon Musk Shares Fresh Details For Starship Launch As SpaceX Continues Launch Site Testing

Footage shared by local media and from SpaceX’s official social media channels shows that the latest Starship Super Heavy rocket booster and second stage ship are on the launch pad for pre launch activities. So far, after it stacked the second stage on the booster yesterday, SpaceX has removed the rockets and is now working on the top of the booster close to its stage separation ring. This ring is a new addition to Starship’s design, and it followed the first test flight in April last year when the rocket’s first and second stages failed to successfully separate and led to an in flight explosion.

While initial speculation after the second Starship test flight late last year had hoped that SpaceX might conduct the next test soon, 2024 has seen few details about Boca Chica testing activities. Among the few things that are confirmed now are the facts that SpaceX will test in space propellant transfer later this year, and that a third test flight, along with subsequent ones, is also on the cards.

A rapid cadence of test flights is the backbone of the Starship program since it enables SpaceX to collect a treasure trove of data to fine tune its rockets and upgrade them for future missions.

SpaceX’s Starship rocket as it makes its way to the pad in February 2024. Image: SpaceX

Now, after the brief lull on the Starship front, SpaceX chief Elon Musk is back on X with a fresh timeline for the third Starship test flight. This test was initially expected to take place in February, but the FAA’s revelation that SpaceX is yet to submit documents related to the second test flight last week hinted that perhaps IFT-3 would take longer than initially expected.

Musk’s latest comments, made in response to the rapper Ye asking him when the next test flight would take place, promise that it should take place “in about 3 weeks”  – effectively confirming that February will not be the month that Starship attempts to fly to the heavens for the third time.

Should the third test flight take place in March, then it will mark nearly a year since the first test in 2023. The new water deluge system installed at the pad following the first test flight took a large bite out of SpaceX’s test schedule, and it eventually ensured that 2023 would only see two tests of a rocket that the firm is eager to remind everyone is part of a ‘hardware rich’ program.

However, SpaceX also appears to be building another launch site at its Texas facilities, hinting that perhaps future Starship launches might see vehicles tested in rapid succession. This will depend on the FAA’s clearance, as SpaceX’s current Starship launch authorizations limit it to only one test per authorization – as the FAA takes its time to understand each test and ensure that any reasons behind an accident or a failure are addressed before the world’s largest rocket can attempt to take to the skies once again.

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