Following the second integrated test flight of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle on Saturday, company CEO Elon Musk said the world’s most powerful rocket will be ready to go again before the end of the year.
In a social media post shared on Monday, Musk wrote: “Starship Flight 3 hardware should be ready to fly in 3 to 4 weeks,” adding that the necessary hardware is in “final production.”
But while SpaceX may be ready to fly the Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft (collectively known as Starship) in December, that doesn’t mean it will actually get the vehicle into the air as it is supposed to. A launch permit would first be required from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Shortly after Saturday’s flight, the FAA wrote on social media that the agency would oversee a SpaceX-led investigation of the failed mission. Once this is completed, the FAA will be able to consider issuing a launch permit for Starship’s third flight.
Like the first unmanned test flight in April, the second flight also ended explosively, although SpaceX engineers considered it successful in achieving stage separation and a longer flight time than the initial attempt in the spring.
The SpaceX team was also pleased to see that its newly designed launchpad easily handled the Super Heavy’s massive 17 million pounds of thrust – almost twice that of NASA’s new Space Launch System rocket – with Musk later commenting that It was in “very good condition”.
This represents a vast improvement over the previous pad, which was completely destroyed by the extreme force and pressure of Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor engines during its April launch. The destruction of the pad spread concrete and other debris over a wide area, forcing SpaceX engineers to come up with something sturdier.
SpaceX hopes to one day use Starship for crewed missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond, but clearly there is still a lot of testing to be completed before that happens. Musk and his team will be hoping for a greater frequency of test flights so he can move toward his ambitious goal at a faster pace.
If you missed Saturday’s launch, check out these extraordinary images taken as the 400-foot-tall rocket roared toward space.