SpaceX cleared for third Starship test flight from Texas

Space fans are preparing for the excitement of yet another SpaceX Starship Super Heavy test flight from south Texas.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said teams are preparing for the third test flight of the company's 400-foot-tall reusable spaceship, Starship and the Super Heavy booster. Starship could launch as soon as Thursday at 8 a.m. ET from the company's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas.

During the most recent test flight in November, Starship made it to the edge of space before its automated termination system triggered a self-destruct of the spaceship.


The SpaceX Starship and Super Heavy booster stacked for launch in Boca Chica, Texas on March 12, 2024 ahead of SpaceX's third test flight with the mega rocket. (Image: SpaceX)

The FAA closed the mishap investigation into the November test flight in February. SpaceX and the FAA identified 17 corrective actions needed before the company receives a modified launch license for its next orbital flight test. SpaceX said it has been implementing hardware changes and making other upgrades to prepare for the upcoming flight.

On Wednesday, the FAA issued the updated launch license the company was waiting on to fly Starship again. 

SpaceX said the second test flight achieved several milestones, and the company expects to expand on those with this next flight.

The first test flight in April ended with an epic explosion 24 miles over the Gulf of Mexico when SpaceX launched Starship for the first time. Previous test "hops" were completed in Texas – some also explosive – before SpaceX tried to launch the spaceship and booster together.


SpaceX's Starship rocket launches from Starbase during its second test flight in Boca Chica, Texas, on November 18, 2023. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP / Getty Images)

What time is the Starship launch in Texas?

SpaceX said the 110-minute launch window opens at 8 a.m. ET (7 a.m. CT). The company said a live webcast of the flight test will go live on X, formerly Twitter, about 30 minutes before liftoff.

Ahead of the launch, SpaceX shared photos of the massive launch "stacked for flight" on the pad in Texas. 

SpaceX reveals new landing location for third Starship test flight

With the third flight, SpaceX will be taking a different trajectory with Starship and testing a new set of "ambitious objectives, including the successful ascent burn of both stages, opening and closing Starship’s payload door, a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage’s coast phase, the first ever re-light of a Raptor engine while in space, and a controlled reentry of Starship."

The previous two tests were set to land in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii. Neither of the last two vehicles survived the ascent to make a water landing. SpaceX said the third test flight will culminate with a splashdown in the Indian Ocean.


SpaceX's Starship and Super Heavy booster at the company's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX is preparing for a third test flight of the vehicle.

"This new flight path enables us to attempt new techniques like in-space engine burns while maximizing public safety," the company said. 

NASA managers continue to follow the testing and development of Starship, which will be used to land NASA Artemis astronauts on the Moon in 2026. However, SpaceX still needs many more test flights before the vehicle flies people. 


Eventually, Starship and Super Heavy will launch from NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Musk said the spaceship is designed to be "caught" by the launch tower arms, making a controlled landing at the same location where it launched.

This month, SpaceX and the Air Force are conducting public meetings throughout Brevard County – home to KSC and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station – to seek comments on a potential launch site for Starship north of Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 37.  

Private citizens also have signed up for flights on Starship, including businessman Jared Isaacman's Polaris Program. Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa plans to bring eight individuals with him on a Starship flight around the Moon.