SpaceX is preparing for the second test flight of Starship, the giant rocket that is being built to carry NASA’s astronauts to the surface of the moon and Elon Musk’s ambitions to Mars. The Federal Aviation Administration granted regulatory approval for the launch on Wednesday, setting up an attempt on Friday morning. Starship is to launch from Boca Chica, Texas, with a two-hour window. Starship will complete a partial trip around the Earth before belly-flopping into the Pacific Ocean off the island of Kauai.
For NASA, Starship is a future moon lander for astronauts under the Artemis missions. But for, Mr. Musk, the vehicle is central to his vision of carrying settlers to the red planet. Stacked on top of what SpaceX calls a Super Heavy booster, the Starship rocket system will be, by pretty much every measure, the biggest and most powerful ever. It is the tallest rocket ever built: 394 feet tall, or nearly 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty including the pedestal.
During the first Starship flight, there were some issues, including a massive brown cloud spreading from beneath the rocket, imbalance in thrust, and engine failures. SpaceX has since made changes to prevent similar problems during the upcoming launch. These changes include conducting “hot firing,” improving the rocket design, and adding a water spray system to prevent damage to the launchpad.