Starship’s third launch will be the most complicated: NASA reveals a secret plan

The third flight of the giant Starship spacecraft, together with the Super Heavy (Booster 9) carrier from SpaceX, may be much more complicated and ambitious than the previous two.

Super Heavy launch vehicle with a Starship spacecraft. Photo: SpaceX

Lakiesha Hawkins, Deputy Assistant Administrator of the NASA Moon to Mars program, spoke at a recent presentation about the possibility of refueling tests during the next flight. She noted that SpaceX was actively preparing to demonstrate the transfer of propellant between the rocket stages.

In fact, NASA does not make definitive statements on this matter, stating that “no final decisions on timing have been made”. However, both sides do consider the transfer of propellant in space as a key element for the implementation of ambitious space projects, like the construction of bases on the Moon and Mars.

The planned refueling tests for Starship were already known in October 2020, when NASA allocated USD 53 million to SpaceX to conduct an experiment in low-Earth orbit. The agreement provides for pumping 11 tons of liquid oxygen between tanks inside the spacecraft.

The flight of the Super Heavy rocket together with the Starship spacecraft. Photo: SpaceX

NASA is showing great interest in developing Starship, SpaceX’s next-generation transportation system for further space missions. The agency signed an agreement with SpaceX worth up to USD 4.2 billion to deliver astronauts to the Moon as part of the Artemis manned lunar missions program using Starship. The cooperation is aimed at creating a permanent presence of astronauts on the Moon until the end of the 2020s.

The launch of astronauts to the South Pole of the Moon is planned for the end of 2025 or 2026 as part of the Artemis III mission. However, to date, Starship has only made two test flights, both of which ended in explosive crashes. Although SpaceX considers the second flight to be relatively successful.

Other technical difficulties and the need to obtain a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) add uncertainty about when the third Starship flight will take place.

Earlier, Elon Musk assumed that the next Starship flight would take place in “two to three weeks”.

According to CNBC

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