SpaceX is preparing to perform the first orbital Starship flight at the Starbase facility located in Boca Chica Village, Texas. Engineers are performing ground tests of prototypes of the Starship launch system that consists of a spacecraft and a gigantic Super Heavy rocket that propels it to orbit. Starship is designed to build a permanent base on the Moon and send the first humans to build a sustainable colony on Mars.
SpaceX has manufactured and tested dozens of stainless-steel prototypes since 2019, each labeled by a Serial Number (SN). The company completed multiple high-altitude test flights under 20-kilometers that enabled engineers to rapidly advance the spacecraft development. Since Summer of 2021, SpaceX is preparing a pair of vehicles, identified as Starship SN20 and Booster 4, for the first orbital flight attempt. The company has not launched the 230-foot-tall booster that is set to become the world’s most powerful rocket. However, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been conducting an environmental assessment of the Boca Chica Beach launch site since June 2021 which has caused the Starship development flights to be delayed. The FAA has delayed its completion of the assessment multiple times and expects to finalize it on March 28 after 9 months. See FAA Starbase environmental assessment timeline here: Permitting Dashboard
The Starship SN20 and Booster 4 prototypes will not fly to orbit anymore. In response to a question from TESMANIAN journalist Evelyn J. Arevalo, SpaceX founder Chief Engineer Elon Musk shared that the company plans to use "New" stainless-steel vehicles for the debut orbital flight test. The past 9 months have enabled engineers to build multiple Starship/Super Heavy vehicles that feature upgrades better suited for an orbital launch that will lift off from South Texas and land in the ocean off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
The new vehicles will be equipped with the newest iteration of the Raptor engine known as 'V2' (version 2). "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," 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 said on March 21 via Twitter. Super Heavy will be equipped with 33 Raptor engines and Starship with 6, three vacuum-optimized Raptors for propulsion in outer space. Musk did not provide more details nor specify what Starship and booster prototypes will be launched to orbit this year. Space enthusiasts speculate that it could be Starship SN24 and Booster 7, though the construction of Starship SN22 is complete and other vehicles are simultaneously under assembly at the Starbase rocket factory.
New— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 22, 2022
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.
We have come a long way in a short time, the next 100 years will take us to Mars and Beyond ! - @elonmusk @SpaceX #Starbase #BocaChicaToMars #iCANimagine @SpaceIntellige3 #StarbaseSurfer - Image Taken: March 22, 2022 - pic.twitter.com/Ij7hbKhiiL— Starbase Surfer (@cnunezimages) March 23, 2022
Featured Image Source: SpaceX