Get ready for some roaring new rockets in March.
Up to three launchers that have never been in space could try to reach orbit next month.
Relativity Space, an American company, can be the first to fly. Its Terran 1 rocket is scheduled to lift off on March 8 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Relativity’s rocket is made primarily of 3-D printing and uses liquid oxygen and liquid methane as propellants. The mission, called “GLHF” for “Good luck, have fun,” is for test purposes and will not carry any satellites into orbit. Relativity is working to build another rocket that’s fully reusable and is collaborating with another company, Impulse Space, on a mission that aims to beat Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Mars.
A rocket from Japan, H3, can also head into space with a satellite that will take pictures of Earth. The rocket, which will replace an earlier Japanese vehicle, was scheduled to fly in February. But a launch attempt was botched on February 17 when the rocket’s side boosters failed to fire as planned. Officials at JAXA, Japan’s space agency, say the rocket was not damaged and that they will try to launch it again on March 10.
The biggest flight of the month could be SpaceX’s Starship, a huge silver-colored spacecraft and rocket booster that is central to Musk’s goal of sending humans to Mars. NASA will also use a version of the vehicle to put astronauts on the moon. An orbital test flight would launch Starship from South Texas to a splashdown near Hawaii.
During a test fire on February 9, 31 of the booster’s 33 engines fired, which Musk said was enough to get the rocket into orbit. However, SpaceX has yet to confirm that the spacecraft is ready for launch, and regulators at the Federal Aviation Administration will also need to decide if the rocket is approved to fly.
For casual observers, March offers just a couple of major astronomical highlights.
Venus and Jupiter are hundreds of millions of miles apart in the solar system, but skygazers on Earth can enjoy the the approach of the shining worlds at night at the beginning of the month, especially on Wednesdays.