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SpaceX’s third Starship test launch takes off successfully

SpaceX hoped the third time would be the charm as it attempted another test of its Starship rocket. This third launch did indeed go well, with the Starship successfully launching at 9:25AM ET. Shortly after launch, it succesfully completed the hot-staging separation from the Super Heavy Booster, and the Starship successfully ignited the second-stage Raptor engines. It’s currently coasting and the Raptor engines are planned to be re-lit about 40 minutes after initial take off. The Super Heavy Booster, meanwhile, went into a semi-controlled descent; its engines didn’t fully re-ignite as planned prior to splashdown. We should hear more about what worked and didn’t work in that phase of testing once everything is finished.

While SpaceX said that both the booster and Starship itself were going to return to Earth at “terminal velocity,” thus making any recovery of them impossible, it looks like Starship itself didn’t make it to splashdown. Based on the initial data, it looks like Starship broke up during re-entry. As with the booster, we should hear more about the specifics behind the ship’s ultimate fate soon.

Before breakup, though, we got to see some dramatic footage of Starship beginning reentry:

The previous two efforts ended in failure, though Starship did reach space on the second go-round. A 110-minute launch window for the latest attempt opens at 8AM ET. A livestream covering the launch kicked off at about 8:50AM ET, and you can follow it here on X.

The Federal Aviation Authority authorized the SpaceX Starship Super Heavy Orbital Flight Test 3 on Wednesday afternoon. The agency said in a statement to Engadget that Space X “met all safety, environmental, policy and financial responsibility requirements.”

The FAA grounded Starship for several weeks before the second test flight until the company took 63 “corrective actions.” The first launch caused a fire in a state park and led to a lawsuit from environmental groups.

Along with building on top of the previous tests, there are a number of “ambitious” goals SpaceX had in mind for this launch. The company aimed to carry out the first re-light of a Raptor engine in space, along with ensuring the successful ascent burn of both stages, opening and closing the payload door and conducting a controlled reentry. The spacecraft flew on a new trajectory and splashed down in the Indian Ocean. SpaceX said the updated flight path afforded it the chance to try out new things like engine burns in space while prioritizing public safety.

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