SpaceX’s Starship IFT-3 Backup Details, Time, Surface In FAA, NASA Documents

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Even as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is yet to issue an updated launch license for SpaceX’s upcoming third Starship test flight due on Thursday, the agency’s notice to pilots and the Coast Guard’s notice to mariners share that the gears are turning. The FAA’s operations plan advisory and its NOTAM are both live and mention Thursday as the day ITF-3 will take place. The airspace management agency is joined by the Coast Guard’s mariner notice, which also mentions a similar date, indicating that just like the second Starship test flight, SpaceX will launch as soon as it receives the FAA’s approval for the third Starship test flight.

FAA, Coast Guard Confirm Potential Starship Test Flight On March 14th

Ahead of the third Starship flight due later this week pending the FAA’s approval, SpaceX has had a busy couple of days. After it launched the latest batch of astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) earlier this month under the Crew-8 mission, Tuesday marked the successful splashdown of the previous astronaut group sent to the station under the banner of Crew-7.

Before Crew-7’s return, SpaceX also sent multiple Starlink satellite launches to space, as part of its plan to launch 144 missions in 2024. Now, the FAA’s Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) informs them of the location of the Starship test, which can be downloaded from the agency’s website. While the notice itself does not mention a date for the third Starship test launch, the FAA’s NOTAM dashboard shares that the notice starts and ends on the 14th, with the start and end times being 1200 UTC and 1431 UTC, respectively.

The second bit of details that indicate a growing momentum toward the third test flight is the Coast Guard’s notice to mariners.

Available on the Coast Guard’s website, it outlines that the Starship test can take place between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., and if any last moment hurdles cause a scrub, then SpaceX will continue with its launch attempts for each day until Starship is in the air. While the FAA’s NOTAM does not share any details for a date, the agency’s operations advisory is more forthcoming.

It outlines that while the primary Starship third test flight launch date is March 14th, backup dates are available for the next two days, i.e., the 15th and the 16th as well as another attempt on the 18th.

Finally, NASA joins the Coast Guard and the FAA with a schedule of its own. The space agency monitors rocket launches and spacecraft reentries through its WB-57 aircraft. The WB-57’s schedule shows that an imaging placeholder is in play for the 14th, providing the final bit of data for a test flight on this date.

For its third Starship test, SpaceX will try to expand on the rocket’s performance from the second test. After launch in November, SpaceX shared that the second stage Starship had reached outer space, a first for the rocket. The firm’s “ambitious” objectives for the flight include “successful ascent burn of both stages, opening and closing Starship’s payload door, a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage’s coast phase, the first ever re-light of a Raptor engine while in space, and a controlled reentry of Starship.

SpaceX also plans to try to land the first and second stage rockets, and in order to test the upper stage’s engine relight in space, the second stage is slated to land in water in the Indian Ocean.

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