SpaceX ‘s enormous Starship spacecraft could be ready for its first orbital launch in April, if the company’s plans proceed smoothly. The company is aiming for the second half of April for the historic test, which will see the vehicle take off from the company’s Starbase facility in southern Texas.
Elon Musk’s statement
“SpaceX will be ready for the Starship launch in a few weeks. Launch timing depends on FAA approval. Assuming FAA approval is granted a few weeks from now, which seems likely, I would give it a 80% chance of going to orbit on the next attempt, hopefully in May” said SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk via Twitter on March 16 (ref.), referring to the US Federal Aviation Administration.
The spacecraft consists of a massive first-stage booster called Super Heavy and a spacecraft, the 50-meter-tall first stage known as Starship. Both stainless steel vehicles are designed to be fully and rapidly reusable. Both are powered by SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engines, with 33 engines for the Super Heavy and six engines for the Starship.
The spacecraft has flown before, only on short hops that reached a maximum of 10 kilometers from the Earth’s surface. Those vehicles, however, were higher-level prototypes with three or fewer Raptors. While no Super Heavy variant has left the ground until now. The situation will change with the next orbital launch of the Starship in April, on which SpaceX has been working for a long time.
50% chance of success
The last test was in May 2021, so nothing has flown from Starbase for almost two years. The launch date has repeatedly been pushed back during this phase. However, this should not be surprising, considering that Starship is a completely new vehicle and very different from the company’s currently operational rockets, the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy. These use Merlin engines rather than the innovative and more environmentally friendly Raptor engines.
Musk has recently stated that the spacecraft has about a 50% chance of success on its debut orbital launch. But he also emphasized that SpaceX is assembling multiple Starship vehicles at Starbase, and one of them is destined to be successful.
“So I think we’ve got, hopefully, about an 80% chance of getting to orbit this year” Musk said on March 7 during an interview at the Morgan Stanley Conference. “It will probably take us another couple of years to get to full and rapid reusability”.