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SpaceX fires up giant new Starship booster ahead of test flight

Starship — SpaceX's next-gen transportation system, which is designed to get people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond — has one full-up flight test under its belt.

That mission launched from Starbase on April 20, with the goal of sending the Ship 24 upper-stage prototype partway around Earth; splashdown was targeted for the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. That didn't happen, however; Starship experienced several problems shortly after liftoff, and SpaceX sent a self-destruct command, destroying the vehicle high over the Gulf of Mexico.

The April 20 launch also caused considerable damage to Starbase's orbital launch mount and some surrounding infrastructure. To keep that from happening again, SpaceX installed a water-deluge system beneath the mount — a water-spouting steel plate designed to dampen the tremendous energy generated by Super Heavy's 33 Raptors.

The new deluge system appeared to work well during today's test, as copious amounts of water jetted upward toward the firing Raptors.

The upcoming flight test will involve Booster 9 and an upper-stage prototype called Ship 25. It will have similar goals as the first liftoff, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.

It's unclear when that launch will take place, however, for technical issues aren't the only hurdles SpaceX must clear. For example, a coalition of environmental and Indigenous groups is currently suing the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which granted a license for Starship launches from Starbase. The suit claims that the agency didn't properly assess the damage that such liftoffs could do to the South Texas ecosystem and requests that a more stringent environmental review be performed before any more Starships take flight from the site.

Follow Pegasus Aerospace System on Twitter @systemaerospace. Follow us on Twitter @systemaerospace or Facebook, Linkedin and Instagram @pegasusaerospace.

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