SpaceX Runs Surprise Starship Tests Ahead Of Third Flight Attempt

Veloz Lamma

SpaceX Runs Surprise Starship Tests Ahead Of Third Flight Attempt

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After having spent a busy week launching payloads for the U.S. government and private customers, SpaceX is keeping up the pace with its Starship testing activities in Boca Chica, Texas. While SpaceX had to wait for months between its first and second Starship tests last year, the time between the third and second tests is less since it has made the required changes to the pad and secured approval from the relevant government agencies. Now, within days after it shipped its Starship booster and ship for the third test flight to the launch pad, SpaceX kicked off activities at the pad by loading the vehicles with fuel before ending the loading early and opening nearby roadblocks.

SpaceX Loads Up Ship And Booster With Fuel As It Preps Starship For Third Test Flight

While SpaceX doesn’t share its Starship test schedule or details on social media before the tests take place, the timelines can often be gauged by the road closures ordered by the authorities in Boca Chica. Since fueling Starship, the world’s largest rocket, is a dangerous operation, during some tests and rehearsals, SpaceX closes the roads adjacent to its facilities before any tests.

Such closures were planned for today, and after the roads were closed, SpaceX started to load its Starship Super Heavy booster and ship with propellant. Contrary to its general procedures, SpaceX appeared to load the ship with fuel earlier than it does in the timeline today, according to footage from local media. The tests took place in a cloud launch site reminiscent of SpaceX’s launches on the West Coast in California that often see the Falcon 9 cut through the clouds before making its way to space.

The Starship Super Heavy during its static fire test in December 2023. Image: Elon Musk/X

Before it can be confident in launching a rocket that’s hundreds of feet tall into orbit, SpaceX conducts multiple tests on the site. These include static fire tests, tanking tests, wet dress rehearsals and water deluge system tests among a litany of others. The static fires test the rocket’s engines to weed out any potential anomalies before launch, and tanking tests are an equally important part of the campaign since they help ensure that a vehicle can sustain the pressures needed to fill it up with thousands of gallons of liquid oxygen and liquid methane.

Today’s tests appeared to test the tanks, and since Starship is made of steel, the characteristic frosting was soon visible on the rocket’s first and second stages soon after the roadblocks were in place. However, the test itself was brief, as SpaceX proceeded to depressurize its vehicle which indicated that the test would not be a full wet dress rehearsal.

As of now, it appears that today’s tests are over, and since Monday is a federal holiday, SpaceX will have to wait for some days before it can close the roads again and resume activities. A full wet dress rehearsal was unlikely, but considering SpaceX’s rapid pace with Starship development, nothing can be said with absolute certainty.

As for the next Starship test’s launch date, so far it appears that the test can take place next month. Given the nature of spaceflight and the fact that Starship is nevertheless still under development, it is possible for the test to slip into April.

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