SpaceX announced it is preparing Starship for the first launch to orbit and back. “The first integrated flight test of Starship is trending towards the third week of April, pending regulatory approval. This will be the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket, a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond. With a test such as this, success is measured by how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship,” said the company in a recent update. SpaceX plans to propel Starship to space from Starbase Boca Chica Beach, Texas, the booster will land in the Gulf of Mexico ocean while Starship continues its journey to reach orbital velocity. If successful, the spacecraft will cruise across the globe for around an hour and then reenter Earth's rough atmosphere with a controlled ocean landing off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii. The orbital flight is expected to last around 1 hour and 30 minutes, if all goes according to plan.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk previously said that propelling a Starship to orbit is challenging and he predicts there is a 50% chance that the launch vehicle will reach orbit. “I am not saying it will get to orbit but I am guaranteeing excitement,” Musk said last month at the Morgan Stanley 2023 Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) conference.
“We are getting ready for the first launch of Starship, this is a very difficult program,” Musk said at TMT. “The rocket is roughly two-and-a-half times the thrust of the Saturn V, so if or when it reaches orbit it’ll be by far the largest rocket to reach orbit. But more importantly it is designed to be the first fully-reusable rocket ever,” he said. “The key to expanding life beyond Earth is a fully and rapidly reusable orbital rocket. This is a very hard problem given the constraints…Earth has a thick atmosphere and strong gravity, it is only barely possible to do this, that is why it has not been done before,” he explained.
SpaceX engineers at the Starbase facility are performing final pre-flight preparations ahead of launching Starship to orbit. “Teams are focused on launch readiness ahead of Starship’s first integrated flight test as soon as next week, pending regulatory approval – no launch rehearsal this week,” said the company on April 11. SpaceX also shared a beautiful photo of the fully-stacked Starship at the Starbase launch pad featuring a rainbow across the sky, pictured below. SpaceX previously planned to do a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) this week to practice launch day operations, but that is now likely to happen next week or when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants SpaceX a Starship spaceflight license to liftoff to space from South Texas, circle the world to land in the ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii. As of today, there is no confirmed liftoff date. The FAA Operations Advisory Plan has the Starship orbital flight scheduled for NET (no earlier than) Monday, April 17, with backup launch opportunities from April 18 to April 21. Musk has also jokingly suggested launching Starship on 4/20. However, the schedule will depend on several factors, such as: when the FAA spaceflight license is issued, the WDR/final checkouts going well, also depend on favorable weather conditions in the southernmost tip of Texas and the landing region along the Hawaiian coast. 04/14/2023 UPDATE: "Targeting as soon as Monday, April 17 for the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket from Starbase in Texas," SpaceX officially announced on April 14.
The Starship Super Heavy rocket is destined to become the world’s most powerful launch vehicle, powered by 33 methane-fueled Raptor V2 engines that are capable of generating over 16.5 million pounds of thrust at full throttle. “To date, the SpaceX team has completed multiple sub-orbital flight tests of Starship’s upper stage from Starbase, successfully demonstrating an unprecedented approach to controlled flight. These flight tests helped validate the vehicle’s design, proving Starship can fly through the subsonic phase of entry before re-lighting its engines and flipping itself to a vertical configuration for landing,” the company said, “In addition to the testing of Starship’s upper stage, the team has conducted numerous tests of the Super Heavy rocket, which include the increasingly complex static fires that led to a full-duration 31 Raptor engine test – the largest number of simultaneous rocket engine ignitions in history,” shared SpaceX. “The team has also constructed the world’s tallest rocket launch and catch tower. At 146 meters, or nearly 500 feet tall, the launch and catch tower is designed to support vehicle integration, launch, and catch of the Super Heavy rocket booster. For the first flight test, the team will not attempt a vertical landing of Starship or a catch of the Super Heavy booster.”
Teams are focused on launch readiness ahead of Starship’s first integrated flight test as soon as next week, pending regulatory approval – no launch rehearsal this week https://t.co/SpsRVRsvz1 pic.twitter.com/ovYUQgAjAc— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 11, 2023
“As we venture into new territory, we continue to appreciate all of the support and encouragement we have received from those who share our vision of a future where humanity is out exploring among the stars!” said SpaceX in the update. The company also shared an outline of the orbital flight test timeline with approximate times on its website.
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All 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.