SpaceX fuels up Starship in key test ahead of 2nd-ever flight (video, photos)

SpaceX's latest Starship prototype just passed another big preflight test.

The company conducted a "wet dress rehearsal" at its Starbase site in South Texas on Tuesday (Oct. 24), filling the Starship vehicle with cryogenic fuel to check for leaks and other potential issues.

"Starship and Super Heavy were loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant today in a flight-like rehearsal ahead of launch," SpaceX said Tuesday night in a post on X (formerly Twitter) that featured video of the test. (Super Heavy is the vehicle's first-stage booster, whereas Starship is its upper-stage spacecraft. Both elements are powered by SpaceX's new Raptor engines, which burn liquid methane and liquid oxygen.)

"Vehicle is ready for the second test flight of a fully integrated Starship, pending regulatory approval," SpaceX wrote in another Tuesday night X post.

RelatedRelive SpaceX's explosive 1st Starship test in incredible launch photos

SpaceX's latest Starship prototype is rimmed with frost during a fueling test on Oct. 24, 2023. (Image credit: SpaceX)

That pending approval is a launch license, which the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not yet granted for the upcoming flight. 

Six weeks ago, the agency closed its investigation into Starship's first-ever fully stacked flight, which lifted off from Starbase on April 20. That test mission aimed to send the upper stage partway around Earth, ending with a Pacific Ocean splashdown near Hawaii. That didn't happen, however; Starship suffered several problems shortly after launch, and the flight ended with a controlled detonation high above the Gulf of Mexico.

"The closure of the mishap investigation does not signal an immediate resumption of Starship launches at Boca Chica," FAA officials said in an emailed statement on Sept. 8, referring to the Starbase site. "SpaceX must implement all corrective actions that impact public safety and apply for and receive a license modification from the FAA that addresses all safety, environmental and other applicable regulatory requirements prior to the next Starship launch."

Another view of the Oct. 23 wet dress rehearsal. SpaceX wants to launch Starship on its second-ever test flight soon, but it still needs a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Elon Musk said recently that SpaceX has implemented all of the corrective actions required ahead of flight number two, and it's clear that the company wants to fly again soon. 

"It's a shame when our hardware is ready to fly and we're not able to go fly because of regulations or re-review," Bill Gerstenmaier, the vice president of build and flight reliability at SpaceX, said last week during a hearing of the U.S. Senate's Subcommittee on Space and Science called "Promoting Safety, Innovation and Competitiveness in U.S. Commercial Human Space Activities."

"We need to be safe, we need to protect the environment; we don't dismiss those. But we need to fly at the fastest pace that we can do hardware development to do this active development process and this test flight experience that we've described," Gerstenmaier added, referring to SpaceX's development strategy of flying prototypes frequently, and iterating frequently based on the results.

Starship is powered by SpaceX's Raptor engines, which run on supercold liquid methane and liquid oxygen. (Image credit: SpaceX)

Starship is the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, and both of its stages are designed to be fully and rapidly reusable. 

SpaceX believes that the vehicle will revolutionize spaceflight, making a variety of bold exploration feats — including the human settlement of Mars, a long-held dream of Musk's — economically feasible.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.

  • The Dude
    SpaceX said Tuesday night in a post on X (formerly Twitter)
    I think it's been long enough, and had enough press coverage, we don't need to be reminded what X was anymore. Especially since you have a link to the site in the text. I think most people are smart enough to figure it out if they havent already.
  • Highcast
    I disagree...our children are not born with your knowledge of Space X, as well as people who had careers that didn't allow them to know anything but water cooler remarks and have no idea. Yes there are millions that have heard of it (like you), but there is also millions that have not.
  • The Dude
    Apologies, I wasn't referring to SpaceX, I was referring to the way so many media outlets still feel the need to still use the "(formerly known as Twitter)" parenthetical side note when referring to X.
  • bryant
    Admin said:
    SpaceX loaded its latest Starship prototype with supercold propellant on Tuesday (Oct. 24), notching a key milestone ahead of the vehicle's upcoming test flight.

    SpaceX fuels up Starship in key test ahead of 2nd-ever flight (video, photos) : Read more
    Why is the federal government dragging their damn knuckles on this? we're running out of time, get it fired up and on its way so progress can be made.
  • Llarik
    I think this is FAA, not NASA, so I don't think 'Ballast' Nelson, has that much to do about it. Although, they may be lobbying to slow it down so as not to have Artemis project shown up by SpaceX's Starship.
  • Unclear Engineer
    I don't think NASA wants to slow down Starship to avoid it beating Artemis, since NASA is counting on SpaceX to get some sort of Starship variant to be the NASA Moon lander for Artemis 3. They want to get that done before the Chinese get there.