SpaceX chief Elon Musk said its next-generation Starship rocket will be ready for its first orbital test flight in July.
Musk tweeted the news shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released a long-awaited environmental assessment that said SpaceX could launch Starship flights from its Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, so long as it completes a number of tasks designed to mitigate the impact of launches on the local area.
For SpaceX to send the Starship skyward in July, it must also obtain a launch permit from the FAA in the coming weeks.
“Starship will be ready to fly next month,” Musk said in a tweet on Tuesday, June 14.”
Starship will be ready to fly next month. I was in the high bay & mega bay late last night reviewing progress.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 14, 2022
A short while later, he added that a second Starship rocket will be ready to fly in August, “and then monthly thereafter.”
The 392-foot-tall Starship rocket comprises the Super Heavy first stage and the Starship second stage. The reusable vehicle, which will become the most powerful rocket ever to fly when it finally gets off the ground, will one day carry astronauts and supplies to the moon, and possibly to Mars.
SpaceX has already tested the second-stage Starship spacecraft, but only on high-altitude flights rather than orbital ones. The Super Heavy, on the other hand, is yet to fly.
The maiden launch promises to be a spectacular sight as the Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor engines blast the vehicle skyward. Just short of three minutes into the test flight, the Starship will separate from the Super Heavy in a mission that’s expected to last around 90 minutes.
Successful testing of the Starship will pave the way for NASA to use a modified version of the Starship spacecraft to land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface, a mission that will take place no earlier than 2025.
The vehicle could also be deployed to carry supplies to the moon to help build NASA’s proposed lunar base.
Speaking last year about America’s new era of crewed space exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, NASA chief Bill Nelson said establishing a crewed outpost on the moon would help it work out what it needs to do to get humans to Mars.
“What we can do on the moon is learn how to exist and survive in that hostile environment and only be three or four days away from Earth before we venture out and are months and months from Earth,” Nelson said. “That’s the whole purpose: We go back to the moon, we learn how to live there, we create habitats.”
NASA is currently targeting the late 2030s for the first astronaut mission to Mars.
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