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SpaceX given clearance to launch Starship megarocket this week

SpaceX's Starship rocket being stacked for its fourth test flight.
SpaceX’s Starship rocket is stacked for its fourth test flight. SpaceX

SpaceX has received a long-awaited launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and will attempt to send the Starship megarocket on its fourth test flight on Thursday.

The world’s most powerful rocket, which comprises the first-stage Super Heavy booster and the upper-stage Starship spacecraft, will blast off from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

Folks watching in person or online will witness a thrilling spectacle as the 120-meter-tall rocket fires up its 33 Raptor engines to create 17 million pounds of thrust, almost double the power of NASA’s new Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which so far has flown only once, in 2022.

The Starship has flown three times up to now, with the first two flights taking place last year and the most recent one blasting off in March. The first two tests ended dramatically in huge explosions just minutes into flight. SpaceX nevertheless learned a lot from these first two efforts and the third test saw the Super Heavy perform as intended, while the Starship spacecraft flew for around 45 minutes before splashing down in the Indian Ocean.

SpaceX had been saying for the last few weeks that it was ready to launch the Starship in early June, but could only proceed once it received a launch permit from the FAA. Now that it’s been given the green light, engineers can make the final preparations for a launch this week.

A 120-minute launch window opens at 8 a.m. ET/11 a.m. PT On Thursday and the mission will be shown on SpaceX’s social media feed. Digital Trends has more information on how to watch the live stream of the much-anticipated test flight, and what viewers can expect to see.

“The fourth flight of Starship will aim to bring us closer to the rapidly reusable future on the horizon,” SpaceX said, referring to the ability to fly and land both parts of the rocket so that they can be used for multiple missions. “We’re continuing to rapidly develop Starship, putting flight hardware in a flight environment to learn as quickly as possible as we build a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars, and beyond.”

Starship moon missions are expected to take place before the end of this decade, but the ambitious nature of a crewed Mars mission means it could be many years before we see the Starship spacecraft heading there.

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