SpaceX Expects Next Starship Launch in About 6 Weeks | Tech

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SpaceX is still picking up the mathematical and metaphorical pieces of last week’s test flight of its giant Starship rocket, but the company isn’t far from counting down the days until its next try.

“We’re still going through the data—the team got to take the weekend off,” Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX president and chief operating officer, said on a panel Tuesday morning at the Satellite 2024 trade show in Washington, D.C. “We’ll get back to flight, hopefully in about six weeks.”

Starship’s March 14 test sent the rocket’s second stage on a suborbital flight around the world that ended with it burning up on reentry some 40 miles above the Indian Ocean. Today, Shotwell described it as “an incredibly successful flight.”

She noted that all 33 Raptor engines on Starship’s booster and all six on its second stage performed as designed. That included a re-light of the booster’s engines after a stage separation to send it to a planned soft landing in the Gulf of Mexico that instead ended with the booster exploding about 1,500 feet above the water.

SpaceX’s recap also notes that Starship’s upper stage couldn’t complete a planned re-light of one Raptor engine in space because of “vehicle roll rates during coast.”

Shotwell said SpaceX needs to identify what happened in the last moments of each stage’s flight, with a “focus on getting reentry right.”

As a result, while the company’s plans to launch future versions of its Starlink broadband satellites rely on Starship’s massive capacity, Shotwell cast doubt on the prospect of Starlinks hitching a ride to orbit on the fourth flight: “I don’t think we’re going to deploy satellites on the next flight,” she said.

That constellation of 5,000-plus satellites in low Earth orbit also figured heavily in Shotwell’s remarks on the panel. 

When asked by panel moderator Mark Holmes, senior editorial director of the trade publication and conference host Via Satellite, if SpaceX would need to start poaching…

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