FAA grants license for SpaceX's March 14 Starship launch

a black spacecraft stands atop its first stage booster on the launch pad with cloudy skies in the background
SpaceX's third Starship vehicle stands stacked at the company's Starbase site in South Texas. SpaceX posted this photo on X on March 12, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Update for 9:58 a.m. ET: SpaceX successfully launched Starship on its third integrated test flight. Read our full coverage here.

Starship's third-ever test flight is officially on for Thursday morning (March 14).

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced today (March 13) that it has awarded a launch license for the mission. "The FAA determined SpaceX met all safety, environmental, policy and financial responsibility requirements," the agency wrote in a post on X this afternoon.

Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, is scheduled to lift off on Thursday from SpaceX's Starbase site in South Texas during a 110-minute window at 9:25 a.m. EDT (1325 GMT). You can watch the action live here at Space.com, beginning at 8:52 a.m. EDT (1252 GMT).

Related: SpaceX fuels up massive Starship megarocket in test for 3rd launch (photos)

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Starship Die Cast Rocket Model Was $69.99 Now $47.99 at Amazon

If you can't see SpaceX's Starship in person, you can score a model of your own. Standing at 13.77 inches (35 cm), this is a 1:375 ratio of SpaceX's Starship as a desktop model. The materials here are alloy steel and it weighs just 225g.

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The 400-foot-tall (122 meters) Starship is designed to be fully and rapidly reusable, a breakthrough that SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk thinks will allow humanity to settle the moon and Mars.

The megarocket has two test flights under its belt so far, which took place in April and November of last year. Starship's two stages failed to separate as planned on the April flight, however, which ended after just four minutes.

Things went better in November — stage separation occurred as planned, for example — but both stages ended up exploding high in the sky on that mission as well. 

The FAA wrapped up its investigation into what happened on the November flight late last month. But the agency took some additional time before awarding a license for launch number three today.

Thursday's flight will be different, and bolder, than its predecessors. 

"The third flight test aims to build on what we've learned from previous flights while attempting a number of ambitious objectives, including the successful ascent burn of both stages, opening and closing Starship's payload door, a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage's coast phase, the first ever re-light of a Raptor engine while in space, and a controlled reentry of Starship," SpaceX wrote in a mission description.

In addition, Thursday's test launch will aim to bring Starship's upper stage down in the Indian Ocean. The target splashdown zone for the first two test missions, by contrast, was the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.

Editor's note: This story was updated on March 14 at 8:04 a.m. with a new 9:10 a.m. EDT launch time for SpaceX's Starship Flight 3.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com 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.