Home Science Starship’s Imminent Liftoff: SpaceX Gears Up for Long-Awaited Orbital Test Flight

Starship’s Imminent Liftoff: SpaceX Gears Up for Long-Awaited Orbital Test Flight

Countdown to Liftoff: SpaceX Awaits Crucial FAA License for Starship Launch

SpaceX's Starship may launch soon, with preparations underway at Starbase. The orbital test flight hinges on obtaining an FAA license.

SpaceX’s highly anticipated Starship orbital test flight could be just around the corner, with signs pointing to a possible launch as early as Monday, April 10. However, there’s still a significant hurdle to overcome before liftoff – the company must secure a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Preparing for Liftoff:

Recent developments at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, indicate that the launch might not be far off. The company has moved Starship’s Super Heavy booster onto a launch mount, while engineers have added shielding to protect the mount and tower from the heat produced during liftoff. Furthermore, NASA has tentatively booked its WB-57 aircraft for April 10 and 11 to track the megarocket during launch, and SpaceX’s “chopsticks” are in position to lift Starship’s upper stage and stack it on top of the first stage.

The Importance of a Launch License:

Despite these promising signs, Starship cannot launch without the FAA’s approval. Anonymous sources suggest that SpaceX could receive the coveted license within the first two weeks of April. The FAA has posted a planning notice for a potential launch test on April 10, with backup dates of April 11 and 12, but the agency has emphasized that this does not guarantee a license will be issued.

Starship’s Journey So Far:

SpaceX has been working towards an orbital launch test of its megarocket since summer 2021, conducting a series of limited static fire tests of the booster’s engines. In February, the company performed the first full-scale static fire test of the Starship system, which officials described as the “last box to check” before the rocket’s first orbital launch attempt.

The Future of Starship:

The fully integrated 394-foot-tall Starship rocket is crucial to SpaceX’s future plans, including government and commercial payload deliveries to Earth orbit and beyond. The company envisions using Starship for lunar and Mars missions, and has a $2.89 billion contract with NASA to land humans on the Moon by late 2025 as part of the Artemis 3 mission.

While we’ve learned not to hold our breath when it comes to Starship launches, recent developments suggest that the long-awaited orbital test flight could finally happen soon. However, the FAA’s launch license remains the crucial missing piece, and only time will tell whether SpaceX can overcome this final hurdle.

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