The maiden launch of the world’s most powerful rocket could take place as early as Monday, according to information released by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In a planning notice published on Tuesday, the FAA named April 10 as the primary expected launch date. It also included April 11 and April 12 as backup launch dates, according to Reuters.
SpaceX is making final preparations for the launch of the 394-foot-tall Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft from its Starbase site in Boca Chica, Texas.
The orbital mission will test the flight systems ahead of future missions that will see the vehicle transport crews to the moon and possibly to Mars, too. NASA has already inked deals with SpaceX to use a modified version of the Starship spacecraft to land astronauts on the lunar surface.
However, obstacles to the launch still remain. These include the issuance of the all-important launch license, which is in the hands of the FAA. In its planning notice, the FAA pointed out that it has yet to make a decision on the matter, adding that the cited April 10 date “should not be interpreted as an indicator that a determination to issue a license has been made or is forthcoming.”
And even if SpaceX receives the license in the coming days, there’s a chance it could immediately find itself facing a civil lawsuit from environmentalists concerned about the impact of the launch on the surrounding area. In such a scenario, a judge could issue an injunction preventing the launch from taking place until the suit is resolved.
When it does get underway, both the Super Heavy first stage and Starship second stage will come down into the ocean. but for future missions, SpaceX wants to land both vehicles upright on the ground in the same way that it brings home the first stage of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket. This will allow the spaceflight company to reuse the Super Heavy and Starship, enabling it to cut costs and increase launch frequency.
When it blasts off on its first flight, the Super Heavy, powered by 33 Raptor 2 engines, will create 17 million pounds of thrust, making it the most powerful rocket ever to have flown.
The record currently belongs to NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, which created 8.8 million pounds of thrust when it lifted off on its maiden flight five months ago in the moon-bound Artemis I mission.
The Super Heavy is also way more powerful than the Saturn V rocket, which generated 7.6 million pounds of thrust when it propelled NASA’s Apollo astronauts toward the moon five decades ago.
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