Skip to main content

SpaceX targets this summer for first Starship orbital flight

SpaceX reportedly has a plan to send its Starship and Super Heavy rocket system on its first orbital flight by July 1, 2021.

The incredibly ambitious date appeared in a report by NASASpaceFlight that was later retweeted by Starship’s official Twitter account.

Related Videos

But given the amount of preparation work and testing that needs to take place between now and then, it seems somewhat unlikely that SpaceX will be able to achieve its goal of sending its next-generation rocket system on its first orbital flight by that date.

In advance of any launch, the SpaceX team still needs to perfect the landing procedure for the second-stage Starship rocket, which will also eventually function as a spaceship for carrying cargo and a crew of up to 100 people. On its first two high-altitude test flights, the Starship prototypes crashed and burned after heavy landings, while the most recent test flight earlier this month saw the rocket nail its first landing before exploding in a fireball several minutes later.

And then there’s the first-stage Super Heavy rocket that still has to be built, flown, and landed.

SpaceX’s next Starship prototype, SN11, is expected to head skyward this week from its test site in Boca Chica, Texas. According to NASASpaceFlight, the team will then move straight to SN15, which will include a number of new design features.

The first Super Heavy prototype, BN1, is expected to undertake ground testing only. BN2, on the other hand, should be the first Super Heavy to take flight. SpaceX has yet to offer any specific dates for the initial Super Heavy tests.

If all of the testing goes to plan — and as we have already seen, that’s a lot to expect — then SpaceX is likely to skip SN18 and SN19 production and instead prepare a first-stage BN3 Super Heavy prototype and second-stage SN20 Starship prototype “with a goal to get to orbit by July 1.”

Failing that, SpaceX is keen to achieve the same flight by the end of 2021 at the latest.

Starship will launch atop the powerful Super Heavy rocket, which will be powered by 31 Raptor engines. Once in space, Starship will use six Raptor engines for independent travel before returning to Earth. In the future, the spacecraft should have the potential to land on other planets, enabling SpaceX to deploy its reusable rocket system in deep space.

Editors' Recommendations

SpaceX deploys first batch of more powerful Starlink satellites
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches in February 2023.

After scrubbing Monday’s Crew-6 launch due to a last-minute technical glitch with the ground systems at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, SpaceX moved ahead with the launch of another Falcon 9 rocket from the same launch facility, carrying into orbit another batch of satellites for SpaceX’s Starlink broadband service.

However, these ones are different to the several thousand Starlink satellites that are already circling Earth.

Read more
NASA and SpaceX target new Crew-6 launch date after scrubbed effort
Crew-6 astronauts aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.

After NASA and SpaceX scrubbed the launch of Crew-6 just a couple of minutes before lift-off early on Monday morning, officials have announced they're now targeting Thursday for the next launch effort.

The team called off Monday’s launch attempt at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida when it suddenly encountered an issue in the ground systems affecting the loading of the ignition fluids for the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry the astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) inside the Crew Dragon Endeavour capsule.

Read more
NASA and SpaceX Crew-6 mission ready for launch tonight
From left, NASA astronauts Warren “Woody” Hoburg and Stephen Bowen, along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev and UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, prepare to depart the Neil A. Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center in Florida during a dress rehearsal for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission launch on Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023.

NASA and SpaceX are ready to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station, with preparations underway and launch scheduled for late tonight PT. The Crew-6 mission is set to launch at 1:45 a.m. ET on Monday, February 27 (10:45 p.m. PT on Sunday, February 26) from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a SpaceX Cargo Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket.

In a press conference following a readiness review on Saturday, February 25, NASA officials said that the crew and hardware had been given the go-ahead. "We had a good launch readiness review and we're on track for the 27 launch," said Dana Weigel, deputy manager of the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. "This morning I had a chance to talk to the crew. They're doing great. Spirits are high and they are ready to go."

Read more