SpaceX prepares for third Starship test flight from Texas

Space fans have about a week to prepare themselves for the excitement of yet another SpaceX Starship Super Heavy test flight from East 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 March 14 from the company's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, if the company receives approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The timing of the launch window has not been announced.

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 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.

The FAA must still approve the updated launch license before SpaceX relaunches Starship. 

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)

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.

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


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.

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.