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SpaceX tentatively announces a June 5, 2024 Starship/Superheavy launch date

Starship/Superheavy flight profile
Click for original image at high resolution.

SpaceX today tentatively announced a June 5, 2024 launch date for the fourth Starship/Superheavy orbital test launch.

Before going into any details of the flight plan, as shown in the flight profile above, it is important to quote the first sentence in the announcement:

The fourth flight test of Starship could launch as soon as June 5, pending regulatory approval. [emphasis mine]

SpaceX has not yet gotten a launch permit from the FAA. It is likely it has inside information from the agency suggesting that permit will be issued by this date. It is also likely that SpaceX by making this announcement is applying pressure to the FAA to either get its paperwork done or waive the need so its red tape doesn’t delay the flight unnecessarily.

As for the flight itself, the flight profile is essentially the same as the previous test flight, with the Starship’s orbit designed for safety to bring it down in the Indian Ocean.

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.

All in all, this announcement is good news. SpaceX is ready to launch.

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 ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

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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


  • Concerned

    Weird that they’re jettisoning the hot staging ring. I’ve heard they’ve redesigned it to be more truss like the Russians use.
    Probably just a temporary measure –this thing is supposed to be fully reusable!

  • Jeff Wright

    Not that big a deal for testing.

    It is inert.

    Now where Starship’s dry weight is 220,000 pounds–SLS weighs 188,000 pounds.

    A steamy hot stage less stressful to SuperHeavy perhaps

    I wonder if one or two cheaper RS-68s or current RS-25s could send a whole SLS core to the Moon in one launch… payload and all.

    Expensive, yes —but SLS could then hold hydrogen on the lunar surface, with that foam insulation would be a help.

  • Trent Castanaveras

    And here is an excellent post describing some the many reasons why flying any part of the Artemis stack beyond the capsule and service module to the moon would be silly:

    Granted this post pertains directly to the Space Shuttle. However, the Artemis stack suffers from the same issues; remember that the exterior tank/first stage doesn’t actually make it to orbit, and even if it did, it’d be empty. Boosting more than the capsule and service module towards the moon would require several more tanker launches… and then you’re into Starship territory.

    The difference being, of course, that Starship is designed specifically to accomplish these feats, while also delivering 100+ tons of cargo to the Lunar surface. Artemis is not.

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