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IFT-4 Booster Heads to Pad as SpaceX Reschedules Fourth Starship Test to June

Elon Musk confirmed a delay in the fourth Starship test flight after the recent shipment of its IFT-4 booster to the launch pad and the inaugural static fire of a new Starship earlier this week. SpaceX swiftly announced a launch date after the March test, aiming to significantly reduce turnaround time since IFT-2’s delay, with a May launch potentially halving this timeline.

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Musk’s announcement coincides with the sharing of an image displaying two upper stage Starships at SpaceX’s Texas facilities. SpaceX is now focusing on concurrently maintaining multiple rockets for the first time since beginning the integrated test flight campaign, potentially aiding in accumulating additional data about its rockets.

Starship Super Heavy boasts 33 rocket engines for liftoff, and precise orientation during landing is crucial to avoid a crash. The third flight in March marked progress, with the second stage Starship coasting adequately post-separation to allow for atmospheric reentry. However, the first stage failed to execute the final set of engine burns required for a controlled landing, resulting in the loss of the vehicle.

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Heat shields are among the most complex components involved in building a rocket. SpaceX manufactures heat shield tiles and assembles them onto the ship. Beyond the two Starships, the third rocket in the picture could also see flight soon, evident from its visible inter-stage separation ring.

A June test flight would mark the first time SpaceX tests the full Starship stack twice in the first half of a year.

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