After a long wait, SpaceX ‘s Starship spacecraft is ready for its first orbital launch. In recent days, technicians at the American company completed stacking the Ship 24 spacecraft on Booster 7. CEO Elon Musk had announced, on Twitter, that SpaceX would be ready with the Ship 24 and Booster 7 prototypes in “a few weeks”. However, the company is awaiting approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The owner had also added more realistically that “launch times depend on FAA license approval. Assuming a few weeks, the first launch attempt will be toward the end of the third week of April”.
The back and forth with the FAA
As was clear, the launch date and subsequent official announcement are in the hands of the American federal agency FAA. In fact, on Tuesday, April 4, the FAA issued Bulletin No. 62 with a potential launch date for April 10. Backup dates specified for April 11 and 12. Since the publication, the anticipation for the launch has grown immensely. Thousands of posts and articles touted the likelihood of a launch on Easter Monday.
For its part, SpaceX poured fuel on this fire when, on April 6, it tweeted images of the Ship 24 and Booster 7 stacked on the launch test pad with the caption: “Starship fully stacked on the moon base alpha platform. Team is working on engine testing, followed by a flight test in the coming week”.
The enthusiasm was decidedly dampened by the FAA itself, which after Bulletin No. 62 corrected its course. They clarified that the notice they had issued should not be interpreted as a green light. “FAA has not issued a license for the SpaceX Starship Super Heavy operation. FAA’s Space Operations Safety Branch issued an advisory stating that it has authorized only the static fire and ascent test activities described in the SNR”.
The launch is very likely to take place on April 17
It seems clear enough that neither Monday nor the rest of the week will see the long-awaited orbital launch test. However, there is still a chance that an attempt will take place on Monday, April 17, according to an advisory statement in FAA Bulletin No. 69 released on April 8.
Although everything is subject to FAA clearance, SpaceX ‘s Starship seems to be finally ready to make its first orbital launch. The flight, if successful, will validate the Super Heavy launch system, which NASA has contracted with SpaceX to provide the Human Landing System (HLS) for the Artemis 3 mission.
The flight test will also open the door to SpaceX’s long-term promise to transport regular payloads and crews to the Moon, provide intercontinental flights, and deliver Starlink V2 satellites into orbit. Additionally, it will bring the company one step closer to achieving the goal that Musk has been preaching since he founded the company more than 20 years ago: to begin sending crewed missions to Mars to create the first self-sufficient city there.
All of this could finally begin before the end of this month!