To replace a component, SpaceX postpones the launch of its massive Starship rocket.

For the second full-scale Starship test flight, SpaceX is now aiming for Saturday at 7 am CST (13:00 UTC).

Chicana Boca Texas’s BEACHElon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, said that the second full-size Starship rocket launch from South Texas would now take place on Saturday, one day later than expected.

This 24-hour postponement will give SpaceX personnel at Starbase, the company’s launch complex, enough time to swap out a part on the rocket’s stainless steel Super Heavy booster. On Saturday, just after sunrise in South Texas, at 7 am CST (13:00 UTC), there is a 20-minute window for launches.

A delay of this magnitude is not unexpected. Starship is a sophisticated rocket that powers its upper stage and booster stage with a total of 39 methane-burning engines that can generate about 500,000 pounds of thrust each. This is the second test flight for SpaceX’s new full-scale rocket, which is the largest launch vehicle ever constructed at about 400 feet (121 meters) in height.

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Not wasting any time for SpaceX

Impressive, if SpaceX manages to complete the repair in time for an early Saturday launch attempt, is that this would be yet another illustration of how quickly things are progressing at Starbase, which is situated on a secluded stretch of the Texas Gulf Coast east of Brownsville, not far north of the US-Mexico border.

After deciding to replace the component near the top of the Super Heavy booster stage, SpaceX’s ground crew was able to disconnect the 15-story-tall bullet-shaped Starship vehicle from the top of the rocket below in a matter of hours. SpaceX refers to the complete launch vehicle including the rocket’s upper stage as Starship.

At SpaceX’s rocket base in South Texas, where teams have lifted and dropped the Starship several times during tests and launch attempts, this is very routine work. The two mechanical limbs, dubbed “chopsticks,” clung to the sides of the Starship and lifted it several feet above the Super Heavy rocket before swinging it to the side and bringing it to the earth.

With creaks and moans, the ominous building that loomed over the coastal mud flats seemed to come to life as the two people with arms slowly descended the rails that ran up and down the launch pad’s support tower. Removing the upper portion of the rocket and setting it down on the ground took less than thirty minutes.

Several hundred yards off, a multitude of eager onlookers and SpaceX supporters clicked photographs. This enormous creature won’t be able to take to the air for at least another day.

In order to provide technicians with access to the Super Heavy booster’s replacement part, known as “Booster 9,” SpaceX had to dismantle the Starship upper stage, also known as “Ship 25.”

Musk announced on his social media site, X, on Thursday that the launch has been rescheduled until Saturday due to the necessity to replace a grid fin actuator.

These grid fins, which resemble tiny wings, are located at the top of the Super Heavy booster. When the booster descends back to the earth, they offer some steering authority and aerodynamic stability. About 20 miles (32 kilometers) off the coast of Texas, in the Gulf of Mexico, SpaceX hopes to guide the booster back to a controlled water landing with the assistance of a rocket during this test flight.

In order to quickly reuse the Super Heavy rocket, which is bigger than an airliner’s fuselage, SpaceX plans to land it vertically back on its launch pad in the future. Recovering and reusing the Starship top stage is another feature.

The grid fins are powered by electric actuators, which enable them to rotate and pivot in response to impulses from the booster’s guidance system that come in at a split second. It looks like SpaceX will be replacing one of these actuators.

Subsequently, the Starbase crew will have to lift the Starship upper stage back up onto the Super Heavy first stage. Early on Saturday, SpaceX leadership could approve a final countdown following a few more inspections.

The Federal Aviation Administration granted SpaceX a commercial launch license for the Starship test flight on Wednesday, after federal officials had reviewed the company’s safety and environmental aspects for several months. The first Starship test flight in April, which ended when the rocket lost control and self-destructed a few minutes after takeoff, prompted regulatory bodies to examine the project.

To mitigate heat and acoustic energy from the simultaneous firing of 33 booster engines, the Starship crew installed a new water deluge system on the launch pad. During the April test flight, an explosion from the engines caused the concrete foundation beneath the rocket’s pedestal to crack, just before the rocket took off.

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The rocket’s thrust vector control or steering mechanisms, stage separation system, and safety measures against fuel leaks—which resulted in engine compartment fires during the April test flight—have also undergone significant modifications.

Since this is still an experimental flight, officials anticipate learning more that will lead to additional design modifications. The flight plan, if all goes according to plan, would take Starship all the way around the planet and up to a height of about 150 miles, after which it will reenter the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean and make a planned splashdown to the northwest of Hawaii.

Different levels of success exist. Essentially, the test flight is an educational exercise, but as SpaceX moves closer to making Starship an operational spacecraft for missions like NASA moon landings and launches to deploy Starlink Internet satellites, some results are better than others.

This is another chance to put Starship in a true flight environment, maximizing how much we learn, added SpaceX. Rapid iterative development is essential as we work to build a fully reusable launch system capable of carrying satellites, payloads, crew, and cargo to a variety of orbits and Earth, lunar, and Martian landing sites.

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