Starship Upgrades and Mission Changes

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Starship’s third full stack flight test is just around the corner. With the first two tests achieving some merits of success and progress, the third flight with Booster 10 and Ship 28 has made substantial upgrades and changes to the hardware, flight profile, and mission itself. This blog provides a quick overview of these changes and upgrades as we prepare for what’s always guaranteed to be an exciting launch of the world’s biggest and most powerful rocket ever flown.

Pad Upgrades

Significant upgrades have been made to the launchpad and stage zero infrastructure since the last flight. SpaceX can now load LOX on the booster in less than 40 minutes, and methane in 41 minutes. This is a tremendous improvement from the previous load times of about an hour and 37 minutes. Additional coolers and pumps have been added, and new tanks will be used on future flights to meet additional storage needs. The pad itself has also received upgrades and additional heat reinforcement on the launch mount and tower, reducing refurbishment time between flights.

Booster Upgrades

The FAA has signed off on SpaceX’s mishap report on Starship’s second flight, which ended in both the ship and booster being terminated. SpaceX has implemented 17 upgrades to the ship and booster to address the issues that arose during the second flight. Booster 10 features noticeable changes on the outside, including a return to the previous grid fin design. Upgrades have been made to the Starling terminals, common dome design, stability mount, and filtration to improve data connections and engine control algorithms. The booster is now better equipped to handle the flip maneuver after hot staging.

Ship Upgrades

Ship 28 is significantly upgraded compared to its predecessor, Ship 25. It has been stacked in reverse order from top down, reducing rigging time during construction. Ship 28 also upgraded to Raptor engines with electric actuators for thrust vector control, reducing the risk of fire. Changes have been made to the engine compartment, heat shield placement, and pattern. The ship now features four Starlink dishes for improved data and views in space. Additional changes include static wicks on the flaps, reinforcement stringers inside the oxygen tank, and relocated and redesigned propellant tank vents.

Mission Changes

With the payload door now operable, the mission for IFT 3 will see the door open more than three minutes after ship engine shutdown. Although a Starlink dispenser is installed, no payload will be deployed during this suborbital mission. SpaceX plans to relight a Raptor engine in space, either prograde or retrograde, to practice a deorbit burn. The trajectory has been shortened, and the landing will occur in the Indian Ocean near Australia. The ship will perform a belly flop landing, and propellant transfer between a header tank and main tank will be attempted for the Artemis Program’s Starship Human Landing System.


SpaceX has made significant upgrades and changes to the launchpad, booster, ship, and mission for the upcoming Starship flight test. The upgrades enhance propellant loading times, improve hardware design, address previous issues, and demonstrate new technologies. While the clock is ticking for the success of Starship, it is important to remember that this is still a test vehicle and flight. The expectations are high, especially with NASA’s need for this rocket to land humans on the moon. The upcoming test will provide valuable insights into the progress and milestones of Starship.


Q: What are the upgrades to the booster and ship?

A: The booster features changes to the grid fins, Starling terminals, common dome design, stability mount, and engine control algorithms. Ship 28 has upgrades to the engine compartment, heat shield, Starlink dishes, flaps, oxygen tank reinforcement, and propellant tank vents.

Q: What changes are there in the mission?

A: The mission includes opening the payload door, attempting a Raptor engine relight in space, and a shorter trajectory with a landing in the Indian Ocean near Australia. Propellant transfer between tanks will also be attempted.

Q: What are the expectations for the upcoming flight?

A: The expectations are high, as SpaceX aims to achieve major milestones with Starship. The hope is for a successful booster landing, completion of door operations and propellant transfer, and potential survival of reentry for the ship.

Indranil Ghosh

Indranil Ghosh

Articles: 249

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