SpaceX prepares for more complex third Starship test flight

  • SpaceX is preparing for the third test flight of its Starship rocket, aiming for more ambitious objectives and complexities, scheduled for as early as March 14.
  • The upcoming flight includes tasks such as payload bay door operations, propellant transfer demonstration, engine relighting in space, and controlled reentry into the atmosphere.
  • Despite previous test flight setbacks, SpaceX continues to refine its Starship technology, targeting missions to the Moon and Mars while prioritising safety and reusability.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently completed its investigation into the November Starship test flight accident but has yet to issue the third launch license.

— Chloe CHEN, BTW reporter

SpaceX‘s giant Starship rocket is set for its third test flight to assess its performance limits. The flight, scheduled for as early as March 14, aims for more ambitious goals and complexities compared to the previous two.

The 122-meter-tall two-stage rocket will undertake a series of ambitious tasks, including opening and closing Starship‘s payload bay doors, demonstrating propellant transfer during the booster stage, relighting the Raptor engine for the first time in space, and controlling Starship’s reentry into the atmosphere.

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It will test new technologies like in-space refuelling

SpaceX adds, “Starship will also follow a new flight trajectory with the aim of splashing down in the Indian Ocean. This new flight route allows us to test new technologies like in-space refuelling while maximising public safety.”

The Starship is intended to aid human missions to the Moon and Mars and perform various other space exploration tasks. This stainless-steel rocket is the largest and most powerful ever built with the goal of achieving full and rapid reusability.

The previous two test flights failed unfortunately

To date, the Starship has undergone two test flights, both launched from the Starbase facility in southern Texas. However, neither flight successfully achieved its objectives.

In the first flight in April 2023, the two boosters failed to separate as planned, leading to the rocket being destroyed approximately four minutes after launch. The second flight in November 2023 saw better performance, with the first-stage booster igniting correctly and the boosters separating as planned. However, the upper-stage booster exploded approximately 8 minutes after liftoff during the oxygen venting process. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk stated that such an occurrence is unlikely in actual flights.

“If carrying a payload, we wouldn’t usually load that much liquid oxygen,” Musk said on January 12, “so ironically, if it had a payload, it probably would have gone to orbit.”

SpaceX has targeted March 14 for the third test flight, but as noted in the mission description, this date is not set in stone.


Chloe Chen

Chloe Chen is a junior writer at BTW Media. She graduated from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) and had various working experiences in the finance and fintech industry. Send tips to

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