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FAA issues launch license for the fourth test orbital launch of Starship/Superheavy

FAA today issued [pdf] the launch license for SpaceX’s fourth test orbital launch of Starship/Superheavy, effective June 4, 2024, thus allowing the company to proceed with its planned June 6, 2024 launch date.

The two-hour launch window opens at 7 am (Central). SpaceX’s live stream will begin 30 minutes earlier. From SpaceX’s Starship website:

The fourth flight test turns our focus from achieving orbit to demonstrating the ability to return and reuse Starship and Super Heavy. The primary objectives will be executing a landing burn and soft splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico with the Super Heavy booster, and achieving a controlled entry of Starship.

To accomplish this, several software and hardware upgrades have been made to increase overall reliability and address lessons learned from Flight 3. The SpaceX team will also implement operational changes, including the jettison of the Super Heavy’s hot-stage following boostback to reduce booster mass for the final phase of flight.

Flight 4 will fly a similar trajectory as the previous flight test, with Starship targeted to splashdown in the Indian Ocean. This flight path does not require a deorbit burn for reentry, maximizing public safety while still providing the opportunity to meet our primary objective of a controlled Starship reentry.

This FAA approval is wonderful news, considering the red-tape delays the agency has previously caused to SpaceX’s efforts. It suggests that officials there are trying hard to speed up their paperwork. If so, the gap between this flight and fifth might be shorter than the three month gap seen between the third flight in March and this flight on June 6th.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 

The print edition can be purchased at Amazon. Or you can buy it directly from the author and get an autographed copy.

 
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"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

10 comments

  • F

    Best wishes for a successful test flight!

  • David Eastman

    The most interesting thing in the announcement: “As part of its request for license modification, SpaceX proposed three scenarios involving the Starship entry that would not require an investigation in the event of the loss of the vehicle. The FAA approved the scenarios as test induced damage exceptions after evaluating them as part of the flight safety and flight hazard analyses and confirming they met public safety requirements. If a different anomaly occurs with the Starship vehicle an investigation may be warranted as well as if an anomaly occurs with the Super Heavy booster rocket.”

  • Andi

    On D-Day no less, and the 80th anniversary thereof at that. Let’s hope it’ as successful!

    I can’t help but cry when I think of those 18- and 19-year-olds who stormed those beaches, and compare them with the 18- and 19-year-olds of today.

  • wayne

    Andi–
    total tangent–

    You might like “Timeghost; WW2 in Real Time,” featuring D-Day.
    They did a 24-hour special last year.
    Part 1 covers midnight to 6am.,
    (Part 2 covers the beach assault.)

    “D-Day; Invasion by Air Part 1”
    https://youtu.be/c0AKc7xxQQk
    (5:59:59)

    (When WW-2 wraps up in August, they begin prep for covering the Korean War in Real Time.)

  • Steve Richter

    Any bold predictions as to how well Starship will function during reentry?

    This Elon tweet from May 30 did not sound optimistic in terms of heat tiles protecting the ship:
    https://x.com/elonmusk/status/1796049014938357932

    Right now, we are not resilient to loss of a single tile in most places, as the secondary containment material will probably not survive.
    I will explain the problem in more depth with @Erdayastronaut next week. This is a thorny issue indeed, given that vast resources have been applied to solve it, thus far to no avail.

  • Seawriter

    If the launch is successful, then with the Rocketlab and SpaceX launches yesterday and the Starliner launch today that would be four launches in three days. Has that cadence ever been achieved before?

  • TallDave

    should start putting some V2 Starlinks in the pez

  • Andi

    wayne,

    Thanks! I’ll look into that

  • Ronaldus Magnus

    Some of my earliest memories are just before Alan Shepard launched into space. The rockets they were developing and testing often exploded, either on the pad, or shortly after launch. The grit and guts of the Mercury 7 were immense. The excitement of SuperHeavy and Starship reminds me of those days. Watching the 33 Raptor engines push Starship skyward is a sight to behold. As Mr. Zimmerman has noted, SuperHeavy is already an operational rocket, just not reusable, YET. Just like the previous space program, I wonder what scientific inventions will reach every day people eventually.

  • Mitch S.

    Steve Richter,
    Interesting quote by Musk.
    I’ve been wondering about the thermal protection system ever since Musk announced his Starship (BFR) plans.
    I doubt they were originally expecting to use a Shuttle like tile system but it looks like they haven’t found a better alternative.
    Having stainless steel under the tiles rather than aluminum probably helps but according to that Musk tweet it doesn’t help much.
    Hard to see Musk achieving his goal of airliner like turn around with a delicate tile system.

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