Next Starship launch will take place in May

SpaceX hopes that the next launch of the Starship spacecraft will take place in early May. The schedule will depend on how quickly it can get a modified launch license.

Starship spacecraft. Source: SpaceX

Starship prepares for a new launch

Speaking at the Satellite 2024 conference on March 19, Gwynne Shotwell, president and chief operating officer of SpaceX, said that the company was still reviewing data from the third launch of the Starship spacecraft, which took place on March 14. They consider the flight a success and expect that the fourth one will happen soon.

During this launch, both the Super Heavy launch vehicle and the Starship upper stage performed the expected results. The spacecraft entered the planned suborbital trajectory. The cargo compartment door was opened in space and an attempt was made to move oxygen between the two tanks.

However, the planned re-launch of the Starship Raptor engines in space did not take place. The company blamed the roll induced in the vehicle. During atmospheric entry, the spacecraft broke apart at an altitude of about 65 km. The superheavy rocket booster, which served as the first stage, also self-destructed after falling into the Gulf of Mexico. 

According to Shotwell, the causes of both incidents are still being investigated. However, the company hopes that the next launch will take place in six weeks, that is, in May. 

Will SpaceX get a license

Shotwell added that the company did not expect to deploy Starlink satellites during the next Starship launch, as some had suggested. Instead, she will focus on successfully landing both stages.

In general, the actual date when Starship will fly into space again depends on the results of the investigation of what happened in space. Moreover, it is conducted not only by SpaceX, but also by the Federal Aviation Administration. And it should give the company permission to start a new lunch.

Speaking at the Space Capitol III by Payload event on March 18, Kelvin Coleman, associate administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration for Commercial Space Transportation, said he did not expect the investigation to reveal any major problems that could significantly delay the next launch.

He said he hoped SpaceX would provide a report on the investigation of the incident quickly, noting that after the second flight of Starship, the company completed this report in a few weeks.

So far, the office has updated SpaceX’s license to launch Starship after each flight, closely monitoring all changes in the program. However, now they want to move to permanent permits. This will accelerate the launch process, because now the state regulator is heavily criticized for greatly slowing down the entire testing process.

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