We have been hearing about the next flight of the Starship, Elon Musk’s next-generation space vehicle, for more than a year, without a precise date.
A possible launch at the end of October
When asked Wednesday about
Twitter when Starship’s first orbital flight could finally take place, the world’s richest man replied:
“Maybe at the end of next month, but November seems very likely. »
A Starship prototype dubbed SN15 has
flew at high altitude (in Earth’s atmosphere) and touched down without exploding on May 5, 2021. This was the last time the spacecraft, which NASA hopes to use to return Artemis astronauts to the lunar surface, left the floor.
Since then, Elon Musk and SpaceX have been busy preparing for Starship’s first orbital demonstration flight. The vehicle will fly atop a Super Heavy Booster for the first time. This week the huge first floor booster was
turned on for the first time on the test bed with seven engines. This is more than double the number of engines from the previous test, and less than a quarter of the engines that will make up a fully loaded Super Heavy, which is designed to launch with 33 engines in total.
One more license to get
In addition to having to complete the tests and prepare the Super Heavy, SpaceX must obtain a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the government organization governing civil aviation, for Starship.
So all eyes are now on the FAA, which already gave SpaceX tentative approval when the launch plan passed a key environmental assessment in June. That said, 75 changes were required on the mission profile. These must be completed before the license is issued.
In the meantime, Elon Musk hopes to conduct a full launch “dress rehearsal” and test a 33-engine Super Heavy for the first time in the coming weeks.
When Starship and Super Heavy finally launch together, the test flight will send the former for a brief trip to orbit, followed by a splashdown off the coast of Hawaii. Super Heavy will attempt to land on a modified oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico.