Wednesday, November 15, 2023

It's On For Real! - but Not Friday

As hinted at or expected for the last several days, the news broke this afternoon that the Federal Aviation Administration had granted the launch license for Starship Integrated Flight Test 2. SpaceX's "Launches" website shows a two hour launch window opening at 8:00 AM EST (7:00 AM on site or 1300 UTC).  The FAA's TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) website shows the launch window ending at 10:39 EST.  This was posted a couple of days ago, and today they posted a TFR for Saturday for the same times.  I have to assume SpaceX knows if they would stretch that launch window from two hours to 2:39. 

Screen capture from SpaceX's launches

The announcement was in the afternoon, EST, and while I didn't see the exact time (I was working in the ham station) by about 4:30 they had begun the process of stacking Ship 25 on Booster 9 and it seemed to go fairly quickly.  It seemed to be stacked by sundown in Boca Chica, so on the order of one to 1-1/2 hours.   

This test is a big deal; not just for SpaceX but for the entire space industry.  Last words to Stephen Clark at Ars Technica:

SpaceX's Starship rocket is a central element for NASA's Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon later this decade. NASA has contracts worth more than $4 billion to use a human-rated deep space derivative of the Starship upper stage for crew landings at the Moon's south pole. There's a lot to do before Starship can do this, including in-orbit fuel transfers and the development of life support systems.

US military leaders have also expressed interest in Starship's ability to haul more than 100 tons of payload into orbit, significantly more lift capacity than any other rocket. SpaceX officials told Ars last month the FAA should be encouraged to prioritize missions of national importance.

But the first step is demonstrating Starship can reliably fly to space. That's what SpaceX will attempt to do Friday.

I would have phrased that slightly differently; that's what SpaceX will begin to attempt to do Friday.  It takes more than one good flight to demonstrate flying reliably. 

EDITED Thursday Nov. 16, 5:00 PM ET:  During testing a problem was discovered that required destacking Ship 25 for repairs.  Launch is set for Saturday the 18th, same time (7:00 AM CST)  the post title was also edited.


  1. WOOT WOOT!!
    Full send!!

    Yeah, it's a test flight, which may or may not Go According To Plan, but SpaceX does the build-test-analyze-redesign-build-test-analyze loop so darn well.
    I fully expect the test to go well, even if they lose more than 3 engines on ascent. I expect the Hot Staging to go more-or-less as planned. I fully expect Ship 25 to re-enter, hopefully in one controllable piece.
    Now, what I expect and what actually happens can vary wildly, but Musk has said that, "Excitement is guaranteed". I expect so!

    Exciting times we live in!!!!!

    1. I guess SpaceX decided to play it safe and replaced TWO grid fin actuators.

    2. Three actuators, actually. Overnight!

    3. It's pretty darn impressive to do that big a fix. De-stack, replace three critical assemblies, and re-stack in less than 24 hours? Nobody else does that.

  2. Fish and Wildlife also concluded their investigation and said that the deluge, licensed for 30 uses in a year, will produce less water in the area than what comes from a normal rainstorm.

    So SpaceX passed that hurdle also.

    Starting 7AM Central Time.

    Yikes. I'll just watch the recap.

    1. The greenies reacted with the usual "ZOMG" stuff. There was sand! And chunks of concrete!! The FWS said, "no big deal" on both of those.

      Now getting hit by a flying chunk of concrete can ruin your whole day, I get that. That's why nobody is allowed within a few miles of the launch pad. But another few yards from where the concrete landed we use another term for chunks of concrete: artificial reef.

      This is why I think the entire motivation of the green movement is that they want it to look pretty. A pretty, natural-looking place to go on vacation and admire the beauty before coming home to their comfort and conveniences. It's why they don't want water wells in Africa, or electrical power for the people who burn trees down for fuel and fight off the wildlife invading their gardens and stealing the food they're growing.

  3. Beans, you put your finger on the funniest part of that "investigation". Anybody with a calculator could have known that. The deluge contains 350,000 gallons of water. That's about 2.5 inches of rain over five acres. If the "affected area" is considered larger than that, well, you do the math. I would guess that a few inches of rain isn't very unusual for the kinds of rain like we just saw.

    1. And the new parking lot that has a wall surrounding it will make capturing some of the water pretty easy.

      Then there's SpaceX having to figure out the probability of striking a friggin shark (with no, repeat, no laser beams) with either Starship or Booster.

      The mind boggles.