Israel’s Iron Dome has been put to the test in more ways than one amid intense fighting with Palestinian militants

israel iron dome gaza rockets
Israel’s Iron Dome interceptors, left, rise in response to rockets fired from northern Gaza, May 14, 2021.

  • Israel’s primary defense against Hamas rockets is the Iron Dome system.
  • Around 4,000 rockets were fired at Israel over a period of just 10 days, according to the IDF.
  • In addition to rockets, Iron Dome has also intercepted drones in combat for the first time.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Israel’s skies are defended by Iron Dome, an air-defense system that has been put to the test in the current conflict with Palestinian militant groups by not only unusually heavy rocket fire but also other threats it has never faced in combat before.

The Israel Defense Force reports that over a period of just 10 days, Hamas and other Palestinian militant forces in Gaza have fired 4,000 Qassam rockets at Israel.

For comparison, over the course of the intense 50-day conflict in 2014, 4,881 rockets were fired, according to UN investigators.

The IDF says that Iron Dome has successfully intercepted roughly 90% of the incoming rockets considered potential threats.

In a first for the system, Iron Dome has also intercepted unmanned aerial vehicles in combat. Iron Dome has so far intercepted five Hamas drones since the fighting started earlier this month, the IDF told Insider.

Israel Palestine Iron Dome
Iron Dome intercepts rockets from Gaza over the city of Ashkelon, Israel, May 5, 2019.

Israel’s Iron Dome is a short-range air-defense system designed to intercept rockets, artillery, and mortars. The system has been in use since 2011 and has helped reduce casualties from rocket attacks against Israeli cities.

The air-defense system was developed by Israeli defense firms Rafael Advanced Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries and is part of a tiered defense system including other assets like Arrow and Patriot batteries.

The Israeli Ministry of Defense announced in March the completion of upgrades to Iron Dome that would allow it to defend against a more diverse collection of aerial threats.

During the upgrade process, the defense system was tested against a variety of threats including rockets, missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Iron Dome is designed to eliminate aerial threats at ranges out to a little over 40 miles in any weather conditions. Each Iron Dome battery consists of three to four launchers, each carrying 20 highly maneuverable Tamir interceptors, and a battlefield radar.

Israel has at least 10 batteries deployed around the country. There may be more, as there were plans to deploy 15 batteries.

While the system is extremely effective, “there is no hermetic solution,” Avi Mayer, a former IDF spokesman, told Insider recently.

“There may indeed be a situation in which these systems are overwhelmed,” he said. “We certainly hope we don’t reach that point, but I think that if we reach that point, it would be extraordinarily dangerous, not only for Israel, but for Palestinians as well.”

iron dome israel gaza palestine rockets
Streaks of light are seen Iron Dome intercepts rockets launched from the Gaza Strip toward Israel, as seen from Ashkelon, May 12, 2021

“What people don’t understand is that the Iron Dome system not only spares Israeli lives, but many Palestinian lives as well,” he said, suggesting that Israel can show more restraint because most incoming rockets are not making it through.

The IDF declined to comment on how Iron Dome affects the military’s strategic thinking, but IDF spokeswoman Capt. Libby Weiss told Insider that she thought that “we would be in a very different conflict” if Israel didn’t have Iron Dome.

“We are, of course, extremely grateful that it exists,” Mayer said. “We can only shudder to think about how many lives would have been lost if it didn’t.”

Iron Dome Israel
An Iron Dome launcher fires to intercept a rocket from Gaza Strip, in the coastal city of Ashkelon, July 5, 2014.

Ian Williams, a missile defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Insider that “the hope” with Iron Dome is that it will have a stabilizing affect.

“If you can alleviate the pressure from the rocket attacks through missile defense, it allows more space for diplomacy. It allows Israel to not send in troops so early. It slows the need for Israel to retaliate,” he said.

“The flip side of the coin is you can say that Iron Dome allows Israel to be much more aggressive because they can withstand Hamas rocket attacks,” Williams added, telling Insider that “it is hard to prove” which is the case.

Some of the rockets launched at Israel from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have made it through Israel’s impressive defenses, with some rockets scoring direct hits on civilian centers.

In response to one recent strike on a neighborhood, the IDF stated that it “will not let this terror go unanswered.”

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Fire and smoke rise over in Gaza City after Israeli strikes, May 18, 2021.

Israel has conducted hundreds of airstrikes on targets in Gaza since the fighting began, resulting in both combatant and civilian casualties.

Scenes of destruction within Gaza coupled with the reports of civilian casualties recall the horrors of the 2014 Gaza War in which more than 2,000 Palestinians were killed. More than half were civilians.

An IDF spokeswoman previously told Insider that “when it comes to our practices in the strip, we are obviously very concerned about the impact on the civilian population within Gaza.”

The challenge, she explained, is that Hamas and other Palestinian militant forces operate in and around civilian infrastructure in a densely populated area, making it difficult for Israeli forces to target Hamas and ensure its own defense without occasionally negatively affecting civilians.

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Al-Sharouk tower is surrounded by fire and smoke as it collapses during an Israeli airstrike, in Gaza City, May 12, 2021.

International pressure is mounting as the death toll grows, with calls for a ceasefire becoming more frequent.

In a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said that he “expected a significant de-escalation” and a move forward “on the path to a ceasefire,” according to a White House readout of the call.

In a subsequent statement, Netanyahu said that while he appreciates “the support of the American president,” but he is “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met,” with the aim being the return of “calm and security” to Israel.

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China is set to launch the first piece of its new space station on Wednesday night

china space station launch Long March-5B Y2 rocket
The Long March-5B Y2 rocket, carrying the core module of China’s space station Tianhe, at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, April 23, 2021.

  • China is set to launch the first module of its new space station as early as Wednesday night.
  • China plans to complete its space station with 11 launches, some involving astronaut crews, by 2022.
  • The rocket launch may be broadcast live in Mandarin and English.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

China is planning to build its own space station, and it’s set to launch the first module as early as Wednesday night.

This core module, called Tianhe, or “Heavenly Harmony,” is currently tucked inside the nosecone of a Long March 5B rocket at the Wenchang Launch Center on the island of Hainan. The rocket is “designed specifically for launching space-station modules,” according to Andrew Jones, a reporter covering China’s space program.

The rocket is scheduled to lift off during a one-hour window starting at 11 p.m. ET on Wednesday – which is noon on Thursday in China.

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A Long March-5B Y2 rocket carrying the core module of China’s space station, at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on April 23, 2021.

This will be the Long March 5b’s second launch – its first was a test launch of a spaceship prototype.

US policy has effectively blocked China from sending astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and forbidden NASA from working with the nation.

China first started its independent human-spaceflight program in 1992. Three decades later, it’s beginning to build its own Earth-orbiting habitat. The country aims to complete the Chinese Space Station (CSS) by the end of 2022. Between now and then, it plans to launch 11 missions to carry three modules (including Tianhe), four cargo shipments, and four astronaut crews, according to The Associated Press.

The complete space station is set to weigh 66 tons, with enough room for three astronauts to live inside the Tianhe module. At least 12 Chinese astronauts are currently training for CSS stints, according to the AP.

The spacecraft for the first astronaut mission to the CSS is already being assembled, and the crew could launch as early as June, Jones reported for Space.com.

The overall plan for CSS calls for it to be significantly smaller than the International Space Station (ISS), which weighs about 450 tons and is roughly the length of a football field. As many as 13 people have been on the ISS at one time during mission overlaps.

Watch the Tianhe module launch live

State-controlled broadcaster CCTV may air the launch live with commentary in Mandarin. The China Global Television Network could also broadcast the launch in English on its Youtube channel, according to Jones.

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The Long March 5 Y-4 rocket, carrying the Tianwen-1 mission to Mars, takes off from China’s Wenchang Space Launch Center, July 23, 2020.

This wouldn’t be China’s first space station. It previously sent two experimental modules into orbit: The first, Tiangong-1, launched in 2011, and its successor, Tiangong-2, followed in 2016. The two space-station prototypes hosted a handful of Chinese astronauts before Tiangong-1 was abandoned, lost its orbit, then broke apart and burned up in Earth’s atmosphere in 2018. A year later, China steered Tiangong-2 into the atmosphere to meet a similar fate.

A new space race

Russia has begun work on its own space station as well. Russian officials said last week that the country’s space agency aims to launch its core station module in 2025, and might eventually withdraw from the ISS.

Together, Russia and China are also co-developing a lunar research station, independent of NASA’s plans to build a lunar Gateway station. Both projects aim to establish a permanent human presence on the moon.

Meanwhile, on Mars, China is preparing to land a rover in a water-rich region of the red planet. The mission, called Tianwen-1, would be the first to deliver an orbiter, a lander, and a rover all together. All three robots reached Mars’ orbit in February and have been circling the planet since then. The lander and rover are poised to descend to its surface sometime in May.

If that mission succeeds, China will become the second country to successfully land on Mars.

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SpaceX may have purchased 2 oil rigs off the coast of Texas that could be turned into ‘floating’ Starship launchpads

elon musk mars bfr rocket spaceship launch earth launch transportation system youtube
  • SpaceX appears to have acquired two oil rigs that it may transform into launch platforms for its forthcoming Starship rocket system, NASASpaceflight reported
  • The floating “spaceports” would add to SpaceX’s operations in Boca Chica, Texas, which are under a new environmental review.
  • Launching rockets from the water should be less disruptive for nearby residents. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

You may know Deimos and Phobos as the names of Mars’ moons. But now they’re also the newly christened names of two oil rigs off the Texas coast. These rigs will likely be transformed into launchpads for SpaceX Starship rockets, NASASpaceflight reported on Tuesday. 

In December 2020, Insider reported that SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had moved from California to Texas, an increasingly common trajectory for tech CEOs looking to save on state income taxes.

Since then, Thomas Burghardt and Michael Baylor of NASASpaceflight identified public records showing the August 2020 sale of two oil rigs off the Texas coast from now-bankrupt oil company Valaris. Both rigs sold for $3.5 million, Baylor’s records requests show

NASASpaceflight identified the buyer as Lone Star Mineral Development LLC, which shares executive Bret Johnson with SpaceX. The LLC was incorporated in June of 2020. While SpaceX has yet to confirm it’s involved in the purchase of the oil rigs, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

Further fueling that idea is a tweet identified by Baylor that Musk sent in June 2020, a week before the LLC’s incorporation, in which the CEO alluded to building launch ‘floating’ spaceport platforms on the ocean

Back on land, the SpaceX site in Boca Chica previously hosted prototype launches for the company. The first launch of the Starship prototype, which the company hopes will eventually lead to the first commercial spaceflight to Mars, occurred in December 2020. The rocket exploded, Insider reported, but the company still considered the test successful. 

SN9, a new iteration of the prototype, will likely be launched this week, weather permitting. The proposed SN9 launch will be beachside, not on the Phobos and Deimos rigs.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it purchased the oil rigs or any plans for them.

Floating launchpads would offer some distinct advantages over land-based launching sites, such as a decreased risk for those living nearby and less noise.

The future of these potential rigs-turned-launchpads and SpaceX’s Texas operations more broadly is still an open question. In December 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration released a call for public input about the SpaceX launch site in Boca Chica.

Musk has said that he hopes SpaceX will begin sending passenger flights to Mars by 2026. 

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Watch video of NASA test-firing the world’s most powerful rocket stage

nasa space launch system sls core stage green run stennis january 2020
Crews at Stennis Space Center lift the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System into place at test stand B-2 on January 22, 2020.

  • NASA plans to test-fire the core stage of its Space Launch System on Saturday around 4 p.m. EST.
  • The core stage will burn through more than 700,000 gallons of liquid propellant over eight minutes while strapped to a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
  • NASA TV plans to broadcast live coverage of the firing — the final test in the agency’s “Green Run” series — starting at 3:20 p.m. EST.
  • The test is a crucial step toward the first launch of SLS, which is currently scheduled for November 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Update (5:40 p.m. EST): The SLS engines shut down after firing for two minutes, apparently due to a “major component failure” on the fourth engine.

NASA plans to fire up the world’s most powerful rocket stage on Saturday in a vital test for its forthcoming mega-size moon rocket, and you can watch live video of the action below.

The final rocket, called Space Launch System, is designed to eventually stand 365 feet (111 meters) and ferry astronauts to the moon sometime in the mid- to late-2020s. The system is an essential piece of a larger program called Artemis, a roughly $30 billion effort to put boots back on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

NASA expects to hot-fire the 212-foot (65-meter) core stage of SLS – the system’s largest piece and its structural backbone – at Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, around 4 p.m. EST on Saturday. Boeing is the core stage’s lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is responsible for its four powerful RS-25 engines, which used to help propel NASA’s fleet of space shuttles.

The core stage’s firing is the eighth and final step in NASA’s “Green Run,” a program designed to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS’s first launch, called Artemis 1 – an uncrewed test flight currently scheduled for November 2021.

space launch system
An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Space Launch System rocketing toward low-Earth orbit.

The core stage is the world’s largest and most powerful rocket stage, according to NASA. It hosts five mains sections, including a 537,000-gallon (2 million-liter) tank for liquid hydrogen, a 196,000-gallon (742,000-liter) tank for liquid oxygen, four RS-25 engines, avionics computers, and other subsystems.

NASA gave a “go” on Saturday morning to fuel the core stage with 733,000 gallons of cryogenically chilled propellant. It took several hours to transfer the hydrogen and oxygen stored nearby in six barges, outgoing NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet.

The rocket stage is vertical on the B-2 Test Stand in Stennis but is heavily strapped down. If all four engines perform normally, they’ll produce about 1.6 million pounds of thrust for 485 seconds, or just over eight minutes – the length of time required to deliver an upper-stage rocket and Orion spaceship into orbit.

NASA’s last major test-firing of an SLS component happened on September 2, when Northrop Grumman successfully ignited a 176-foot-tall (54-meter) side booster. Two of the solid-fuel boosters will strap to the core stage and provide about 75% of the force required to heave SLS off its launch pad and toward space during the first two minutes of flight.

If the core stage’s hot fire goes well, NASA will ship the rocket to Kennedy Space Center in Florida in February. By that time, workers are expected to have stacked all the segments of two boosters required for sending Artemis 1 around the moon.

“Our team is locked in and focused on delivering the rocket for a 2021 launch,” John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday. “This powerful rocket is going to put us in a position to be ready to support the agency and the country’s deep-space mission to the moon and beyond.”

Watch live video of the core stage’s hot fire

NASA is giving itself two hours to conduct the core stage’s liquid-fuel test on Saturday, which can begin as soon as 4 p.m. ET.

NASA TV plans to broadcast live coverage of the test starting at 3:20 p.m. ET, which you can watch via the embedded YouTube player below.

This story has been updated. It was originally published at 12:47 p.m. EST on January 16, 2021.

Do you have a story or inside information to share about the space industry? Email Dave Mosher, send him a Twitter direct message, or consider more secure communication options listed here.

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Watch live video of NASA test-firing the world’s most powerful rocket stage for 8 minutes

nasa space launch system sls core stage green run stennis january 2020
Crews at Stennis Space Center lift the core stage of NASA’s Space Launch System into place at test stand B-2 on January 22, 2020.

  • NASA plans to test-fire the core stage of its Space Launch System on Saturday around 5 p.m. EST.
  • The core stage will burn through more than 700,000 gallons of liquid propellant over eight minutes while strapped to a test stand at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.
  • NASA TV plans to broadcast live coverage of the firing — the final test in the agency’s “Green Run” series — starting at 4:20 p.m. EST.
  • The test is a crucial step toward a the first launch of SLS, which is currently scheduled for November 2021.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

NASA plans to fire up the world’s most powerful rocket stage on Saturday in a vital test for its forthcoming mega-size moon rocket, and you can watch live video of the action below.

The final rocket, called Space Launch System, is designed to eventually stand 365 feet (111 meters) and ferry astronauts to the moon sometime in the mid- to late-2020s. The system is an essential piece of a larger program called Artemis, a roughly $30 billion effort to put boots back on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

NASA expects to hot-fire the 212-foot (65-meter) core stage of SLS – the system’s largest piece and its structural backbone – at Stennis Space Center in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, around 5 p.m. EST on Saturday. Boeing is the core stage’s lead contractor, and Aerojet Rocketdyne is responsible for its four powerful RS-25 engines, which used to help propel NASA’s fleet of space shuttles.

The core stage’s firing is the eighth and final step in NASA’s “Green Run,” a program designed to thoroughly test each part of the core stage ahead of SLS’s first launch, called Artemis 1 – an uncrewed test flight currently scheduled for November 2021.

space launch system
An artist’s rendering of NASA’s Space Launch System rocketing toward low-Earth orbit.

The core stage is the world’s largest and most powerful rocket stage, according to NASA. It hosts five mains sections, including a 537,000-gallon (2 million-liter) tank for liquid hydrogen, a 196,000-gallon (742,000-liter) tank for liquid oxygen, four RS-25 engines, avionics computers, and other subsystems.

NASA gave a “go” on Saturday morning to fuel the core stage with 733,000 gallons of cryogenically chilled propellant. It took several hours to transfer the hydrogen and oxygen stored nearby in six barges, outgoing NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a tweet.

The rocket stage is vertical on the B-2 Test Stand in Stennis but is heavily strapped down. If all four engines perform normally, they’ll produce about 1.6 million pounds of thrust for 485 seconds, or just over eight minutes – the length of time required to deliver an upper-stage rocket and Orion spaceship into orbit.

NASA’s last major test-firing of an SLS component happened on September 2, when Northrop Grumman successfully ignited a 176-foot-tall (54-meter) side booster. Two of the solid-fuel boosters will strap to the core stage and provide about 75% of the force required to heave SLS off its launch pad and toward space during the first two minutes of flight.

If the core stage’s hot fire goes well, NASA will ship the rocket to Kennedy Space Center in Florida in February. By that time, workers are expected to have stacked all the segments of two boosters required for sending Artemis 1 around the moon.

“Our team is locked in and focused on delivering the rocket for a 2021 launch,” John Honeycutt, the SLS program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, told reporters during a briefing on Tuesday. “This powerful rocket is going to put us in a position to be ready to support the agency and the country’s deep-space mission to the moon and beyond.”

Watch live video of the core stage’s hot fire

NASA is giving itself two hours to conduct the core stage’s liquid-fuel test on Saturday, which can begin as soon as 5 p.m. ET.

NASA TV plans to broadcast live coverage of the test starting at 4:20 p.m. ET, which you can watch via the embedded YouTube player below.

Do you have a story or inside information to share about the space industry? Email Dave Mosher, send him a Twitter direct message, or consider more secure communication options listed here.

Read the original article on Business Insider

SpaceX may launch and land its newest Starship rocket prototype on Monday. With any luck, it won’t explode.

elon musk sn8 launch test flight
Left: SpaceX founder Elon Musk looks upward during a press briefing on March 2, 2019. Right: SpaceX’s Starship serial No. 8 rocket-ship prototype launches from a pad in Boca Chica, Texas, on December 9, 2020.

  • SpaceX is preparing to launch the latest prototype of its Starship spacecraft — a system that could one day carry humans to Mars.
  • The new prototype, called serial No. 9 or SN9, is set to rocket tens of thousands of feet in the air, belly-flop toward the ground, and re-fire its engines to flip upright and land.
  • SpaceX’s first attempt at such a flight with SN8 was successful — save for the Starship slamming into and exploding on the landing pad.
  • SpaceX has permission to launch SN9 as soon as Monday, according to government notices.
  • Several live video feeds should broadcast the launch attempt, so bookmark this page; we’ll embed them closer to launch.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

SpaceX is preparing to rocket the latest prototype of its Starship spaceship thousands of feet into the air, then attempt to land it gently back on the ground.

If the company can successfully pull off this tricky maneuver – cutting the rocket’s engines back on as it plummets toward Earth, just in time to turn it upright, slow its fall, and steadily set down on a landing pad – it will be the first time a Starship vehicle has ventured so high and returned in one piece.

Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX in 2002, wants the final Starship-Super Heavy launch system to be fully and rapidly reusable. If Musk’s plan succeeds, Starship may slash the cost of reaching space 1,000-fold, power round-the-world hypersonic travel on Earth, and fly astronauts to the moon. Musk has said that his ultimate plan is to build 1,000 Starships that will carry enough people and cargo to Mars to build an independent, self-sustaining city there.

SpaceX last launched a Starship prototype of this kind the first time on December 8. Called Starship serial No. 8, or SN8, roared tens of thousands of feet above the company’s expanding facilities at Boca Chica, Texas. SN8 then tipped its nosecone forward, cut off its engines, and began to plummet. As the vehicle neared the ground in a sideways, belly-flop freefall, it re-fired its engines to flip upright and slow its descent.

However, low pressurize in a propellant tank caused the spaceship to fall too fast, slam into its landing pad, crumple, and catastrophically explode.

SpaceX still considered the seven-minute test flight a success, though, because it was inherently an experiment – and one that flew higher than ever before and performed unprecedented maneuvers. For example, SN8’s flight achieved sequential rocket-engine shutdowns, aerial flips, and a belly flop made stable via wing flaps. (Previous test flights had been “hops,” with prototypes launching a few hundred feet into the air, then landing downrange.)

Now SpaceX is set for another major test flight, and this time it could stick the landing. Like its predecessor, the new prototype, called SN9, is 16 stories tall and powered by three Raptor engines. The SN9 tipped over inside a vertical assembly building on December 11, but SpaceX appeared to make quick repairs and roll it out to a beachside launch pad.

starship sn9 fall spacex boca chica texas
The SN9, fallen over inside the vertical assembly building, December 11, 2020.

In preparation for launch, SpaceX clamped down the SN9 and test-fired its engines three times on Wednesday – a record static-fire rate for the company.

The company seemed prepared to launch this week, but two of the engines needed repairs, Musk tweeted on Thursday. Musk added that he’s hoping SpaceX an speed up the engine-swapping process so that it takes “a few hours at most.”

SpaceX appears to be targeting a Monday launch. The Federal Aviation Administration issued an airspace closure notice for a rocket launch from Boca Chica for that day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. CST. The FAA issued similar notices for Tuesday and Wednesday – back-up dates in case weather or glitches cause SpaceX to delay the test flight.

Both airspace closure and local road closures are required for launch. The Cameron County judge has issued Boca Chica road-closure notices for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST.

How to watch SN9’s launch attempt live

starship sn9 prototype spacex boca chica texas
The SN9 during static-fire testing in Boca Chica, Texas, on January 13, 2021.

SpaceX may broadcast the launch attempt live on YouTube. Several online broadcasters, such as NASASpaceFlight.com and LabPadre, also plan to stream live video footage of the flight. We will embed these live feeds below once they’re available.

A series of events typically precedes a Starship prototype launch. A couple of hours beforehand, SpaceX will clear the launch site of personnel. Roughly an hour ahead of flight, storage tanks at the launch site will begin venting gases as SpaceX prepares to fuel Starship with cryogenic fuels. Fueling later causes Starship to vent gases out of its top, signaling that launch could occur within minutes.

Poor weather, a technical glitch, or a boat entering the launch’s danger zone – a new challenge for Starship – could lead to delays.

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