Now that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally completed its environmental assessment of the Starbase launch site after 11 months, SpaceX is moving full-speed to achieve launching a fully-stacked Starship to orbit this Summer. Teams are rapidly working on preparing prototypes Starship SN24 and Super Heavy Booster 7 for the debut orbital flight attempt. "For the first time ever, there is a rocket capable of establishing permanent bases on the moon and Mars," said SpaceX founder Elon Musk, "Starship will be ready to fly next month. I was in the high bay & mega bay late last night reviewing progress," he shared via Twitter on June 14th. We will soon see engineers stack Starship SN24 atop Booster 7 at the launch tower ahead of lift off sometime in July. "We will have a second Starship stack ready to fly in August and then monthly thereafter," said Musk.
For the first time ever, there is a rocket capable of establishing permanent bases on the moon and Mars— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 14, 2022
We will have a second Starship stack ready to fly in August and then monthly thereafter— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 14, 2022
Today, June 23rd, SpaceX teams at Starbase transported Super Heavy Booster 7 to the launch pad to begin the next phase of pre-flight preparations. Booster 7 is equipped with 33 powerful Raptors, the methane-fueled engines will undergo testing at the launch pad in the days ahead. SpaceX plans to conduct a static-fire test of all engines during which the Raptors will be ignited for a few seconds while grounded with strong clamps at the launch mount. It will be interesting to see how many engines engineers will ignite simultaneously for ground testing. Super Heavy is destined to become the world’s most powerful rocket capable of generating over 16 million pounds of thrust! According to Boca Chica residents, SpaceX plans to place Booster 7 on the launch mount by using the launch tower's robotic arms for the first time this week. The robotic-arms (A.K.A. Chopsticks) are designed to stack Starship atop Super Heavy and 'catch' the stainless-steel vehicles upon mission completion.
Super Heavy Booster 7 with 33 Raptor engines installed was transported to the orbital launch pad at Starbase pic.twitter.com/Tvld2cKhB9— SpaceX (@SpaceX) June 23, 2022
SpaceX is currently in the process of obtaining a Starship flight license to conduct the long-awaited orbital spaceflight. The company has not shared an updated flight profile. Last year, SpaceX shared an official document with details of the debut orbital flight, the 2021 planned flight path said Super Heavy would propel Starship to orbit from South Texas and the booster would return to land in the ocean along the Gulf of Mexico, as Starship continues its voyage to land off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii. It is unknown whether SpaceX will still follow this flight plan or maybe change plans and attempt something more risky like trying to "catch' the booster with the launch tower. We will find out the official orbital flight plan for 2022 in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, SpaceX will test the stainless-steel vehicles' 33 engines and ensure all is working well before taking flight.
SpaceX's goal is to achieve performing frequent Starship flights carrying cargo to orbit in order to certify the spacecraft is ready to launch humans to land NASA astronauts on the Moon by 2026. The company works around-the-clock to rapidly develop a lunar-optimized Starship for the Artemis program. You can watch SpaceX Starbase Launch Site operations 24/7 in the video linked below, courtesy of LabPadre via YouTube.
All Featured Images Source: SpaceX