SpaceX’s Starship Will Be Ready for First Orbital Flight in July, Elon Musk Says
SpaceX’s giant Starship vehicle could begin flying in the skies this summer.
The Starship consists of a massive first-stage booster called Super Heavy and a 165-foot-long (50 m) upper-stage spacecraft known as the Starship. SpaceX is developing vehicles to carry people and cargo to the Moon, Mars and other destinations throughout the Solar System.
The company has conducted a handful of high-altitude test flights with an upper-stage prototype of the Starship from its South Texas site Starbase near the village of Boca Chica. And it is gearing up for the first orbital test flight of the transportation system, which SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk now says could happen soon.
“Starship will be ready to fly next month. I was reviewing progress at High Bay and Mega Bay late last night,” the billionaire entrepreneur said via Twitter today (opens in new tab) (June 14) .
“We will have a second Starship stack ready to fly in August and monthly thereafter,” Musk said in another tweet today.
Much of this preparatory work has involved building and testing the next-generation engine Raptor that will power the Starship. Musk has said that each Super Heavy booster will have 33 Raptors and each Starship spacecraft will have six.
For perspective: SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket is powered by nine less-powerful Merlin engines in its first stage and one in its upper stage.
Hardware preparation will not guarantee a July Starship flight, however; SpaceX still needs to obtain a launch license from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). And getting one won’t be easy; The FAA released an environmental assessment of Starship activities on Starbase, laying out more than 75 things SpaceX should do to minimize its impact on the surrounding region, a biodiversity hotspot.
If all goes well with Starship’s test campaign, the vehicle could go a long way in the next few years. NASA chose Starship as the first crewed lunar lander for its Artemis program, which aims to put boots on the Moon in 2025 or 2026. And Musk has expressed optimism that Starship could begin launching people to Mars in the same general time frame, though he sets very aggressive goals for his companies.