SpaceX chief Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that Starship’s maiden orbital flight could take place “near the end of [the] third week of April.”
There had been hopes that the test flight of the world’s most powerful rocket — comprising the Super Heavy booster and second-stage Starship — might take place as early as this week following an earlier tweet from Musk confirming that the vehicle was stacked and “ready to launch” from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
However, the company can’t send the rocket skyward until it receives a launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
In a planning notice posted last week, the FAA said that a flight could happen on April 10, though this was later updated to April 17. But even then, the FAA pointed out that the date could change again as it still has to make a decision on the launch permit.
If Musk is right and the Starship lifts off around April 20, it promises to be a spectacular sight.
That’s because the Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor 2 engines will be packing a massive 17 million pounds of thrust as the massive 120-meter-tall machine blasts off. That’s twice the thrust of the current most powerful rocket, NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which embarked on its maiden mission five months ago.
Once the Super Heavy booster and Starship spacecraft have been thoroughly tested and certified for crewed missions, the reusable vehicle will send astronauts to the moon, Mars, and possibly beyond.
NASA has already agreed with SpaceX to use a modified version of the Starship to land astronauts on the moon in the Artemis III mission, currently slated for 2025.
In a one-off mission, the Starship will also be used to send Japanese billionaire entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa and eight passengers on a flyby of the moon, taking a similar route to the crewed Artemis II mission that’s scheduled for late next year using NASA’s recently tested SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft.
There’s a lot to forward to with the Starship’s first orbital flight. And after years of development and a very long wait, it’s starting to feel that it’s about to finally get off the ground.
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