NASA official says SpaceX could be ready to launch Starship's debut orbital flight test in December

NASA official says SpaceX could be ready to launch Starship's debut orbital flight test in December

It has been half a century since humans last set foot on the Moon's surface. NASA’s Artemis program aims to land astronauts on the Lunar South Pole by 2025. The agency contracted SpaceX to develop a lunar-optimized Starship Human Landing System (HLS) to land astronauts on our closest celestial neighbor. Starship is actively under development at the Starbase facility located in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The company is preparing to launch an uncrewed Starship prototype to space for the first time this year.  

During a live-streamed NASA Advisory Council meeting on October 31st, Mark Kirasich, a senior NASA official who oversees the agency's Artemis Campaign Development shared that SpaceX could be ready to launch Starship's debut orbital flight test soon. “Right now, the schedule would lead to an early December test flight,” said Kirasich. The flight profile for the debut orbital Starship flight attempt was detailed in a regulatory filing last year. The stainless-steel Starship and Super Heavy rocket prototypes will liftoff from Starbase, circle half-way around the Earth before splashing down along the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii.

"We track four major Starship flights. The first one here is coming up in […] early December," shared Kirasich. NASA will oversee four test flights that will demonstrate the spacecraft’s capabilities. The first is the orbital flight, followed by a Starship flight to test refueling in orbit. The fourth mission is expected to be an uncrewed lunar landing demo mission scheduled for 2024 before launching astronauts in 2025.

The schedule for the debut orbital flight depends on achieving successful pre-flight tests of both Starship SN24 and the Super Heavy Booster 7 prototypes. Booster 7 is equipped with 33 methane-fueled Raptor V2 engines which have to pass a static-fire test. SpaceX has never ignited over a dozen powerful Raptor engines. Engineers are actively preparing the vehicles for lift off and already performed a series of cryogenic proof tests to assess structural integrity. SpaceX is still pending a spaceflight license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to perform the first-ever orbital flight before this year ends.  

Featured Image Source: SpaceX

About the Author

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo

Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.

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