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Starship may launch at dawn with SpaceX

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On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration announced its approval of a commercial launch license for SpaceX’s third full-scale test flight of the Starship rocket.

This is the last regulatory obstacle that SpaceX must overcome in order to launch Starship from South Texas. The third launch of the world’s most potent rocket, following two trial flights in the previous year, is planned for Thursday morning.

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The Starship rocket and Super Heavy booster from SpaceX will launch from the Starbase test site located on the Texas Gulf Coast, only a few miles north of the US-Mexico border. The launch opportunity for the rocket, which stands at a height of around 400 feet (121 meters), begins at 7 am CDT (12:00 UTC) on Thursday and lasts for a duration of 110 minutes.

Starship may launch at dawn with SpaceX

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that SpaceX has successfully fulfilled all the necessary criteria related to safety, environmental impact, policy adherence, and financial accountability.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) stated that the license is applicable to every stage of the proposed OFT-3 (Orbital Flight Test-3) operation. “This encompasses the necessary preparations before a flight and the moment when the spacecraft takes off from Texas. It also involves the controlled descent and landing of the Super Heavy booster in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the controlled descent and landing of the Starship vehicle in the Indian Ocean.”

SpaceX will attempt to land Starship in the Indian Ocean for the first time. Last year, there were two test flights planned to end with a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean. However, SpaceX has modified the trajectory for this launch to achieve some extra test goals, such as restarting a Raptor engine in space for the first time.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conducted a “tiered environmental assessment” to examine the environmental impacts of a Starship spacecraft’s reentry and water landing in the Indian Ocean. The idea put forth by SpaceX was approved by federal officials.

Should Starship successfully launch inside the designated launch window on Thursday, it would take off approximately 40 minutes prior to sunrise at Starbase. This upcoming launch of Starship will mark its first night launch. However, the liftoff is scheduled to occur close to daybreak, which means that the rocket’s growing engine plumes will be illuminated by sunlight as it ascends into the upper atmosphere.

Twilight launches are impressive and frequently result in a phenomenon known as the “jellyfish” effect, caused by sunlight reflecting off ice crystals in the exhaust trail of a rocket. This vibrant phenomena is extremely captivating whether observed against a dark sky prior to sunrise or following dusk. The visibility of a rocket’s jellyfish exhaust trail is contingent upon cloud cover. However, under the assumption of clear skies, a Starship launch at the beginning of the launch window on Thursday may be observable from locations as distant as Houston and other areas around the Gulf Coast.

The weather prediction for Thursday at Starbase indicates a predominantly clear sky with no thunderstorms predicted according to the official National Weather Service. Forecasters anticipate the occurrence of windy conditions during the night of Wednesday leading into Thursday, with strong winds reaching speeds of 20 to 30 mph. SpaceX has not disclosed the specific wind threshold for a Starship launch. There is a possibility of scattered fog tonight leading into Thursday morning, but it is unlikely to affect the launch except for maybe impacting visibility.

Notwithstanding these technological difficulties, Starship successfully achieved spaceflight for the first time on the November test flight. SpaceX aims to capitalize on this advancement with the upcoming flight this week. As a demonstration of officials’ confidence, SpaceX included many supplementary goals for the third Starship launch.

Starship’s third flight included a modification in the prelaunch propellant loading sequence. Prior to liftoff, the launch team will commence the process of loading the two-stage rocket with almost 10 million pounds of super-cold methane and liquid oxygen around 53 minutes in advance. In the past, SpaceX initiated the process of putting propellant into the rocket more than 90 minutes prior to the launch. The Starship should be completely filled with fuel approximately three minutes before the launch, and its 33 Raptor engines will start operating at T-minus three seconds.

In line with the last November launch, the Super Heavy rocket will travel in an eastward direction from Starbase and activate its methane-fueled engines for around 2 minutes and 42 seconds. Subsequently, it will separate from the Starship as the latter lights its six engines. During the maneuver towards a specific splashdown location in the Gulf of Mexico, Super Heavy will guide itself. Meanwhile, Starship will activate its six engines and continue firing them for a duration of 8 minutes and 33 seconds after the launch time (T+), achieving sufficient speed to follow a suborbital path that will take it halfway around the globe, ultimately reaching the Indian Ocean.

Contrary to Starship’s previous launch, this one will not result in the vehicle landing in the Pacific Ocean northwest of Hawaii. Nevertheless, due to its late self-destruction during the burning process, fragments of the Starship spacecraft descended into the Atlantic Ocean, namely to the north of Puerto Rico.

The third test flight of Starship will feature an initial demonstration of SpaceX’s in-space refueling capability. Prior to Starship’s ability to travel to the Moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program or any other destination beyond low-Earth orbit, SpaceX must achieve proficiency in in-orbit refueling. This will need a complex coordination of Starship tankers maneuvering into low-Earth orbit to provide new shipments of methane and liquid oxygen propellants to a Starship rocket destined for deep space.

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Furqan Yasin

Furqan is an Web Developer, Entrepreneur Computer enthusiast, Gamer, YouTuber. He is a Tech writer specializing in the intersection of tech and culture. He is passionate about PC and its components, and is always looking for more. He hopes to change and revolutionize the process of online reviews.

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