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SpaceX Starship Mission 3: How to Watch the March 14 Launch

Release: 2024/03/08 12:09 Reading: 595

Original author: Don Reisinger

Original source:https://www.cnet.com/science/space/spacex-starship-mission-3-how-to-watch-the-march-14-launch/

SpaceX is inching closer to another Starship launch. And its third mission may be its most ambitious yet.

Rocket launches can be thrilling to watch, but the last two SpaceX Starship launches offered a little more than viewers bargained for: both spaceships exploded after takeoff. Still, the company considered the missions successful, thanks to the data and information it was able to collect. And it's not stopping. SpaceX on Tuesday announced plans to launch its third Starship mission on March 14, pending US regulatory approval. 

The mission will stream live on X, the social media platform owned by SpaceX owner Elon Musk. You'll have to be up early to watch, as the streaming is scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m. ET, about 30 minutes before scheduled liftoff. In a mission description on its website, however, SpaceX said the mission timing was "likely to change," telling viewers to keep checking back.

Starship is arguably the most ambitious effort for Musk, who runs the satellite-based internet company Starlink, along with EV maker TeslaX and the neurotechnology company Neuralink. The Starship missions are critical to SpaceX's -- and Musk's -- goal of getting to and eventually settling the moon and Mars

Now, as SpaceX looks ahead to this mission, it has much more to accomplish. And with a new flight trajectory and hopes of even greater data insights, the space company's third mission may prove to be its most important yet.

What to expect from the Starship mission

SpaceX's third Starship mission is designed to test whether the spacecraft can complete certain tasks. After liftoff, the company will attempt to open Starship's payload door and transfer its propellant from one part of the starship to the other. For the first time, SpaceX will also attempt to relight its Raptor engine while in space, a test that could be critical for future missions as it eventually tries to propel Starship through space.

Starship is taking a different flight path this time around, and will attempt to land safely in the Indian Ocean instead of the Pacific Ocean. In a statement, SpaceX said that the new flight path is designed to maximize "public safety," but the company didn't discuss how. 

The new flight path will also pave the way for SpaceX to try "in-space engine burns," a reference to the company attempting to reignite the Raptor engine in space.

This mission is slated to last for an hour and 15 minutes. Previous missions, if completed, would have lasted 90 minutes.

What happened in the previous missions?

April mission: Forced detonation

The first Starship mission launched in April 2023. Early on in the mission, the two stages of the Starship -- the reusable upper stage, called Starship, and its Super Heavy first-stage booster -- were supposed to separate. Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and for safety reasons, the SpaceX team was forced to detonate the Starship just 4 minutes into the mission.

November mission: Explosion due to liquid oxygen

In November 2023, Starship launched its second mission. That time around, Starship was able to separate its two stages and it reached nominal first-stage engine burn. However, Starship exploded 8 minutes after launch, when it tried to vent its liquid oxygen. Oddly, the explosion may not have needed to happen. Earlier this year, Musk said on a real mission carrying payload -- meaning the materials a spaceship carries to perform its scientific mission -- liquid oxygen wouldn't be onboard.

Third time's the charm?

While both missions technically failed, SpaceX has called them, especially the second mission, successful. And the company cautioned that even if the upcoming third mission goes awry, it's not all bad.

"Starship's second flight test achieved a number of major milestones and provided invaluable data to continue rapidly developing Starship," the company wrote on its site. "Each of these flight tests continue to be just that: a test. They aren't occurring in a lab or on a test stand, but are putting flight hardware in a flight environment to maximize learning."

When will the Starship mission launch?

Starship's third mission is set to launch on March 14 at 8 a.m. ET. However, in order for that to happen, the weather will need to cooperate and there must be no issues with the Starship in the run-up to launch.

Additionally, SpaceX is able to launch Starship only after receiving a Federal Aviation Administration license, which it has yet to receive. That's likely why SpaceX has said that the timing of the launch is "dynamic and likely to change."

How to watch Starship mission 3

SpaceX will offer two livestreams for watching the third mission live. 

The first option is the SpaceX third mission landing page, where the SpaceX broadcast team will go live 30 minutes before launch. 

Not surprisingly, given Musk's involvement in both SpaceX and X, the mission will air live on SpaceX's X account. It will go live 30 minutes before launch.

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