Kenneth ChangMichael Roston

SpaceX is trying for a third time to launch Starship, the most powerful rocket ever built, on a journey part of the way around Earth.

The nearly 400-foot-tall vehicle is being built to carry astronauts to the moon for NASA, and perhaps someday to send humans to Mars.

The vehicle flew twice last year from a SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Both flights ended within minutes, resulting in explosive events, providing useful data for SpaceX’s engineers as they aim to complete a full mission.

During this third trip, SpaceX is hoping to achieve a better performance for the rocket, reaching higher altitudes and perhaps even speeds that would be capable of carrying the vehicle to orbit.

Here’s what else you need to know about the flight:

  • The launch is scheduled for no earlier than 8 a.m. Eastern time. There is a 110-minute window during which the flight could launch, so the company could launch later as is often the case during test flights.

  • The flight is being streamed live on the website X, which is also owned by SpaceX’s founder, Elon Musk. The New York Times will also carry a livestream on this blog.

  • The Starship system consists of two stages — the Super Heavy rocket booster and the upper-stage spacecraft, which is also called Starship. The company intends both to be fully reusable in the future.

  • SpaceX’s second Starship flight, on Nov. 18, achieved several milestones, including an in-flight procedure called hot staging in which the upper-stage engines start firing before the booster stage drops away. But the rocket’s Super Heavy booster stage exploded shortly after separating from the spacecraft’s upper stage, which also exploded minutes later about 90 miles over the Atlantic Ocean.

  • Thursday’s flight, which is to last a little more than an hour, will try yet more new milestones in space before the Starship’s upper stage tries to splash down in the Indian Ocean.

  • A successful test flight would provide strong validation for the design of the Starship system, but more test flights will be required before SpaceX can land a spacecraft on the moon, let alone Mars.


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Credit: NYTimes.com

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