SpaceX is working to return NASA astronauts to the Moon to build a permanent base. Humanity has not returned to the lunar surface in around half a century. NASA's Artemis program aims to have a sustainable lunar presence when it retires the International Space Station by 2030. The agency partnered with SpaceX to make it a reality. SpaceX is developing a lunar- optimized Starship to land astronauts on the Moon in the year 2025. Landing on the moon will be a stepping stone to launch the first humans to Mars aboard Starship by 2029.
SpaceX is developing Starship at its Starbase facility located in Boca Chica Beach, Texas. The company started to build a second facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, from where astronauts are expected to lift off on a voyage to the Moon. On Sunday, June 5, SpaceX founder Elon Musk shared a presentation slideshow about the company's accomplishments and goals that features renders of future Starship factories it will build in Texas and Florida (video linked below).
Deck from SpaceX all-hands update talk I gave last week pic.twitter.com/ApsdPjjukh— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 5, 2022
The new factory that will be built at Starbase Texas looks futuristic with an entire wall made of glass windows. Starbase already has a set of large Vehicle Assembly Buildings and hangars where the company has built Starship prototypes since 2019. Engineers are preparing to conduct a debut orbital flight test, however, SpaceX is pending regulatory approval to launch from Boca Chica. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been conducting an environmental assessment of the Starbase launch site for around 11 months, which has delayed SpaceX's plans to launch a Starship prototype to orbit. The FAA expects to complete the assessment by June 13th, next week.
SpaceX already has environmental approval to launch Starship from Florida and the company already started building a Starship launch tower at NASA's Kennedy Space Center this year. During the Starship 2022 Update presentation earlier this year, Musk said that if the Starbase Texas environmental assessment and spaceflight license process is significantly delayed, that the company would launch from NASA's historic Launch Complex-39A. “We do have the alternative of the Cape and we actually applied for environmental approval from launching from the Cape a few years ago and received it," he said. "So we actually are approved from an environmental standpoint to launch from 39-A. So I guess our worst-case scenario is that we [orbital flight] would be delayed for six to eight months to [complete] build up the Cape launch tower and launch from there," Musk said in February.
The Starbase factory will primarily be used for manufacturing and testing stainless-steel Starship/Super Heavy prototypes and the Florida facility for launching the first NASA crewed missions. Long-term, SpaceX plans to use refurbished oil rigs that will be converted into sea-going Super Heavy-class spaceports, capable of navigating everywhere around the planet for missions.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX