SpaceX is preparing to enter a crucial phase of Starship’s development next year. It will attempt to launch the gigantic rocket-ship to orbit. SpaceX targets to conduct the first orbital flight test as soon as January. –“We’re expecting our license approval from the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] around the end of this year, and so that probably means a launch attempt in January, or perhaps February,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared during the National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 183rd Space Studies Board meeting. The FAA recently announced it aims to complete SpaceX Starbase facility environmental assessment by December 31st, then the company will be able to apply for a Starship flight license.
“We’ve completed [manufacturing of] the first orbital booster and first orbital [Star]ship, and we’ll be complete with the launch pad and launch tower later this month, and then we’ll do a bunch of tests in December, and hopefully launch in January,” Musk said. “There’s a lot of risk associated with this first launch, so I would not say it is likely to be successful, but I think we’ll make a lot of progress,” he added. “We’ve also built a factory for making a lot of these vehicles. So this is not a case for just one or two. We’re aiming to make a great many.”
“We intend to do, hopefully, a dozen launches next year, maybe more,” he shared. “And if we’re successful with it being fully reusable, that means we build up the fleet just as we are with the Falcon 9 booster, which is reused.” With at least a dozen launches the company will be able to iterate quickly to develop the Starship launch system as soon as possible. SpaceX’s first customer, Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa, purchased a Starship flight around the Moon that is scheduled for 2023, so SpaceX is working to have it ready by then. “Basically, we intend to complete the test flight program next year , which means it’s probably ready for valuable payloads that are not for testing but actual real payloads in 2023,” Musk said.
This year SpaceX completed multiple milestones towards the spacecraft’s development, including conducting the first-of-its-kind ‘belly flop’ maneuver to simulate how Starship would glide down a planet’s atmosphere to slowly descend to conduct a propulsive landing. The company also achieved landing the first stainless-steel steel Starship after a high-altitude flight test powered by three methane-fueled Raptor engines. However, SpaceX has never flown the 230-foot-tall Super Heavy rocket that is equipped with 29 Raptor engines, nor flown a Starship with all its 6 engines. Engineers are gearing-up to conduct the orbital flight that will utilize all of the engines. The Super Heavy Booster 4 prototype will liftoff from Starbase in South Texas to propel Starship SN20 to orbit, once in outer space SN20 will test its vacuum-optimized Raptors for the very first time and attempt to reenter Earth’s atmosphere with the ‘belly flop’ maneuver to land in the ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. It will also be the first time the spacecraft's Starbrick Heatshield on its belly will be put to the test. The orbital test flight will enable engineers to see how the vehicle performs and figure out what needs to be improved. 2022 is expected to be an eventful, exciting year for SpaceX.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX