Starship flight 3 launch

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SpaceX successfully launched its third Starship test flight on March 14, 2024. The mission, known as Starship Flight 3, involved the launch of Booster 10 and Ship 28. The flight aimed to demonstrate several key capabilities, including the opening and closing of the payload dispenser door, the relighting of a Raptor engine in space, and the in-space cryogenic propellant transfer. The launch window opened at 7:00 AM CDT (12:00 UTC) and closed at 9:00 AM CDT (14:00 UTC). The mission plan included a soft splashdown of Booster 10 in the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 20km offshore, simulating a landing back on the launch pad's "chopsticks." Ship 28 was not intended to be recovered but was set to attempt a controlled reentry and splashdown in the Indian Ocean. The flight was a significant step forward for SpaceX, despite both stages breaking apart during separate descents to ocean splashdowns. The Starship experienced intense re-entry heating, with insulation tiles on its belly facing temperatures higher than 2,500 degrees. Telemetry stopped at about 40 miles altitude, indicating that the Starship broke up before completing its planned descent. However, reaching space and experiencing peak heating was considered a major achievement by the company. SpaceX's third Starship test flight was part of the company's rapid iterative development approach, aiming to maximize learning through actual flight hardware in a flight environment. This approach has been the basis for all of SpaceX's major innovative advancements. The launch was closely followed by space enthusiasts and streamed live on various platforms, including YouTube channels and SpaceX's official website. The mission was also significant for NASA, as the successful propellant transfer test and Raptor restart are critical milestones for the agency's Artemis moon program, which plans to use a Starship variant as the Human Landing System (HLS).
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