This Week in Space

Mar 22nd 2024

This Week in Space 103

Starship's Orbital Feat

Hosted by Rod Pyle, Tariq Malik

SpaceX's 3rd Test Flight Decoded With's Mike Wall

New episodes posted every Friday.
Guests: Mike Wall
Category: News

Last week's test flight of SpaceX's Starship--its third so far--was a mixed bag. The successful launch, ascent, staging, and testing of propellant transfer and the cargo bay door were all brilliant, yet both vehicles were destroyed before completing their planned trajectories, and the upper stage didn't make it into orbit (though it did reach "orbital velocity," according to Elon). So what's the real story on this test flight? When will the next one be? How close is SpaceX to routine launches of Starship, and when might it be ready to land NASA astronauts on the moon? And finally--an interstellar Starship, really Elon? ace reporter Mike Wall--that's Dr. Mike Wall to you--joins us with the details.


  • Soyuz Rocket Pad Abort: A rare occurrence where a Soyuz rocket's launch to the ISS was aborted due to a power issue, highlighting the reliability and challenges of space launches.
  • Boeing Starliner's Crew Test: An update on Boeing's Starliner, poised for its first crewed test flight, marking a significant milestone in commercial spaceflight.
  • Chandra Space Telescope Funding Cuts: Discussion on budgetary decisions impacting the Chandra X-ray Observatory, reflecting on the challenges of sustaining long-term space science missions.

Main Topic - SpaceX's Starship Developments:

  • Starship's Third Test Flight: Starship's third fully stacked test flight on March 14th was the most successful to date, achieving significant milestones but still facing challenges with stage separation and atmospheric reentry.
  • Technical Challenges and Innovations: Discussions on Starship's design choices, such as its stainless steel construction and the choice of methane as fuel, showcasing the innovative approaches to overcoming space travel challenges.
  • NASA's Artemis Program and Starship: NASA's reliance on Starship for future lunar landings underlines the spacecraft's importance in returning humans to the Moon and potentially beyond.
  • The Business Case for Mars: Speculation on how SpaceX plans to finance its Mars colonization ambitions, including the role of commercial and military contracts, point-to-point Earth transportation, and the potential market for Mars travel.
  • Potential for Interstellar Travel: Elon Musk's ambitious vision for Starship's future, including interstellar missions, underscores the long-term goals of SpaceX's space exploration efforts.

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