This week, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) granted SpaceX a license to communicate with Starship via ground-based antennas to receive data during the first orbital flight test set to occur early next year. According to the FCC filing, SpaceX targets to conduct the orbital flight before March 1, 2022. However, the company is still pending regulatory approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that is currently performing an environmental review of the Starbase launch site in South Texas to ensure safe spaceflight operations. SpaceX will be able to apply for an FAA spaceflight license once the environmental assessment is complete, deadline is December 31st.
According to a separate document filed with the FCC, “The Starship Orbital test flight will originate from Starbase, TX. The Booster stage will separate approximately 170 seconds into flight. The Booster will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles [32 kilometers] from the shore,” SpaceX wrote, “The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100km [kilometers] off the northwest coast of Kauai [Hawaii] in a soft ocean landing.”
SpaceX founder Elon Musk recently said that the ambitious orbital flight attempt would ‘hopefully’ happen in January or February, and could be followed by 12 or more launches throughout the rest of 2022. “[…] We’re close to our initial orbital launch,” he said, “…There’s a lot of risk associated with this first launch, so I would not say that it is likely to be successful, but I think we will make a lot of progress,” Musk said at the National Academies Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine 183rd Space Studies Board conference.
License granted: Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX)— FCC Space Licenses (@FccSpace) December 9, 2021
Purpose: Experimental orbital demo and recovery test of the Starship test vehicle from Boca Ch(...)https://t.co/QJ9JrUX5U8 pic.twitter.com/8mbpiIrmMk
The company told the FCC that its objective for the first orbital flight test is “to collect as much data as possible during flight to quantify entry dynamics and better understand what the vehicle experiences in a flight regime that is extremely difficult to accurately predict or replicate computationally,” SpaceX said. “This data will anchor any changes in vehicle design or CONOPs [concept of operations] after the first flight and build better models for us to use in our internal simulations.”
Engineers are working to develop a fully-reusable Starship launch system, the orbital flight will provide data to improve it’s design. “I think it is a very profound vehicle,” Musk said about Starship, “I don’t think anything like it is being developed, and I don’t think anything quite like it has even been proposed, but it has the potential to affect human destiny in a very good way.” Musk says Starship will enable NASA astronauts to build a permanent base on the Moon and he hopes the launch system could help humanity build the first sustainable settlement on Mars to create a second home for our species.
Featured Image Source: SpaceX