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SpaceX's Starship Rocket Set To Have 2nd Test Flight Today

SpaceX's Starship rocket will take astronauts to the Moon under Artemis-III mission for the first time in five decades. The mission is expected to take place in 2025-26.

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SpaceX's Starship is the most powerful spacecraft ever built
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Elon Musk-owned SpaceX is set to have a test launch of Starship, the most powerful spacecraft ever built, on Saturday. This is the second test for the spacecraft.

SpaceX's Starship will take astronauts to the Moon under Artemis-III mission for the first time in five decades. The mission is expected to take place in 2025-26. The successful demonstration of Starship's operability is central to NASA's Artemis programme and the broader human spaceflight programme as well as Musk's spacefaring ambitions, who envisions a settlement in space before the dawn of the 22nd century.

The Starship would launch from SpaceX's Starbase site on the Gulf of Mexico in Texas during a 20-minute window that opens at 8 am ET (6:30 Indian time).

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The Starship sits stop the Super Heavy booster. Together, the platform is around 400 ft tall. Shortly after the lift-off, the Super Heavy booster will separate and splash down into the Gulf of Mexico seven minutes after the launch. The Starship would go on for a 90-minute flight and then splash down near Hawaii in the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier in April, Starship lifted off and flew to around 25 miles (40 km) before bursting into flames. The rocket failed four minutes into its scheduled 90-minute flight. While the test failed, in line with the company's ethos of failing fast and learning from its failure, SpaceX termed the development a success and said it gained great insights to make the platform better from the incident. 

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The US Federal Aviation Administration (USFAA), however, was not this liberal. The FAA made SpaceX carry out dozens of corrective actions regarding the rocket as well as the launch site. Now, after those measures have been implemented, Starship is set for its second-ever test launch.

In the test launch, the objective is to get the Starship to lift off the Earth and reach space but not enter into orbit. Then, the spacecraft would descent and splash down off Hawaii's coast from where it would be recovered. Starship is envisioned as a reusable rocket, a technology that SpaceX has pioneered. 

"A successful test flight would mark a key step toward achieving SpaceX's ambition of producing a large, multi-purpose, spacecraft capable of sending people and cargo back to the moon later this decade for NASA, and ultimately to Mars," noted Reuters, adding that Musk also envisions Starship to replace SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket as the mainstay of the company's launch business.

NASA is counting on the success of Starship as its critical to its Artemis programme, which is already dealing with delays. Originally scheduled for 2025, the Artemis-III mission that would land humans on the Moon for the first time in first decades is now expected to be delayed to 2026. December 2025 "is our current manifest date, but with the difficulties that SpaceX has had, I think that's really, really concerning" and "you can think about that slipping probably into '26", said Jim Free, NASA's Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Development in June, according to Space.com. 

NASA has indicated that it could require up to 19 successful launches before it is approved for the mission to the Moon, according to Space News. Earlier in 2021, when it emerged that NASA could require 16 successful launches, Musk publicly disagreed and said four to eight launches would be needed to demonstrate the operability of the spacecraft.

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