On Monday, March 21st, SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk shared that SpaceX aims to conduct the first orbital Starship flight in May. "First Starship orbital flight will be with Raptor 2 engines, as they are much more capable & reliable. 230 ton or ~500k lb [pounds of] thrust at sea level," said Musk. "We’ll have 39 flightworthy engines built by next month, then another month to integrate, so hopefully May for orbital flight test," he wrote via Twitter. Once operational, Starship is destined to become the most powerful rocket in the world, right next to NASA's retired Saturn V rocket that launched astronauts to the lunar surface.
First Starship orbital flight will be with Raptor 2 engines, as they are much more capable & reliable. 230 ton or ~500k lb thrust at sea level.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 21, 2022
We’ll have 39 flightworthy engines built by next month, then another month to integrate, so hopefully May for orbital flight test.
Raptor V2 (version 2) engines are upgraded methane-fueled Starship engines that feature less visible plumbing and wiring with more power compared to the previous iteration of the Raptor (pictured below). The Super Heavy rocket that will propel Starship to orbit will be equipped with 33 Raptors and the Starship prototype with 3 vacuum-optimized engines for propulsion in space and 3 sea-level Raptors for atmospheric flight. It will be the first time SpaceX uses over three engines during a test flight.
Raptor V1 & Raptor V2 (back) Source: Tesmanian.com / @JaneidyEve via Twitter.
SpaceX is pending regulatory approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct Starship's debut orbital flight test. Before receiving a flight license, FAA must complete the ongoing environmental assessment of the Starbase launch site at Boca Chica Beach, Texas, to ensure safe spaceflight operations. The Administration's target date to complete the environmental assessment is March 28.
Meanwhile, SpaceX continues to perform ground tests of the Starship launch system at the launch pad. Last week, engineers stacked prototypes Starship SN20 atop Super Heavy Booster 4 with the 400-foot-tall launch tower robotic arms. The arms are designed to stack the 160-foot-tall spacecraft atop the 230-foot-tall rocket. They performed a propellant load test utilizing the launch tower’s integrated propellant loading plumbing on the Quick Disconnect (QD) arm. It is unknown if SpaceX still plans to launch prototypes SN20 and Booster 4 to orbit or if it will use the newest prototypes under assembly at the Starbase factory which likely feature design upgrades. March 21, 2022 UPDATE: In response to a TESMANIAN journalist, Elon Musk confirmed SpaceX plans to fly New Starship prototypes for the debut orbital flight test.
New— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 22, 2022
According to a 2021 flight plan outlined in a U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) document, a Super Heavy Booster will propel Starship to orbit from South Texas, the spacecraft will circle the planet and land in the ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. The booster will conduct a soft landing at sea in the Gulf of Mexico near Boca Chica Beach soon after propelling Starship to orbit. The orbital flight test will enable SpaceX to practice its concept of operations and gather data to improve the launch system's development.
Featured Images Source: SpaceX
About the Author
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.