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.

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

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Billionaire calls off moon flyby adventure
Yusaku Maezawa announcing his plan to fly around the moon.

Yusaku Maezawa aboard the ISS in 2021. Yusaku Maezawa

A Japanese billionaire has canceled his plan to fly around the moon on SpaceX’s Starship, the most powerful rocket ever developed.

Read more
First crewed flight of the Boeing Starliner scrubbed once again
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is seen on the launch pad of Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Saturday, June 1, 2024

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft sits atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on the launchpad of Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Saturday, June 1, 2024. NASA Television

The planned crewed launch of the Boeing Starliner has once again been called off at the last minute. The launch today was scrubbed at 3 minutes and 50 seconds before liftoff due to a problem with the ground system. This is the second time that the first crewed mission using the Starliner has been called off shortly before launch, with a previous attempt on May 6 scrubbed due to a different issue with the rocket.

Read more
SpaceX reveals target date for next test of Starship megarocket
The world's most powerful rocket on the launchpad.

The world's most powerful rocket on the launchpad at SpaceX's Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX

SpaceX is itching to send its Starship rocket on its fourth test flight, with company CEO Elon Musk recently suggesting the launch could take place sometime next month.

Read more