SpaceX is preparing for the second test flight of Starship, the giant rocket that is being built to carry NASA’s astronauts to the surface of the moon and Elon Musk’s ambitions to Mars. The Federal Aviation Administration granted regulatory approval for the launch on Wednesday, setting up an attempt on Friday morning.
Here’s what you need to know about the launch.
When is the launch, and how can I watch it?
Starship launches from Boca Chica, Texas, a site on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico near the city of Brownsville that SpaceX has nicknamed Starbase.
The flight could lift off as early as 8 a.m. Eastern time on Friday. SpaceX will stream the launch live on X, the social network formerly known as Twitter that is also owned by Mr. Musk.
There is a two-hour window during which SpaceX could launch. Test missions frequently lift off later in a launch window as flight managers work to assure that systems are functioning as designed.
If the flight is fully successful, Starship will complete a partial trip around the Earth before belly-flopping into the Pacific Ocean off the island of Kauai.
What is Starship?
For NASA, Starship is a future moon lander for astronauts under the Artemis missions. But for, Mr. Musk, the founder and chief executive of SpaceX, the vehicle is central to his vision of carrying settlers to the red planet. That means Starship has to be big.
Stacked on top of what SpaceX calls a Super Heavy booster, the Starship rocket system will be, by pretty much every measure, the biggest and most powerful ever.
It is the tallest rocket ever built: 394 feet tall, or nearly 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty including the pedestal.
It is designed to be entirely reusable. The Super Heavy booster is to land much like those for SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets, and Starship will be able to return from space belly-flopping through the atmosphere like a sky diver before pivoting to a vertical position for landing.
What went wrong during the first Starship flight?
First there was the massive brown cloud that spread outward from beneath the rocket as its engines fired up. It contained dirt, rocks and even boulder-size concrete chunks that the force of the rocket thrust excavated from beneath the launch pedestal.
And then as Starship rose into the air, it tipped to the side. Three of the booster’s 33 engines had failed to start, and the unbalanced thrust…