SpaceX awaits long-awaited Starship decision on Monday

SpaceX could finally be cleared on Monday for the first orbital launch of its next-generation Starship rocket that could one day send astronauts to Mars.

The private space company led by Elon Musk is awaiting a decision from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which has spent months evaluating the suitability of SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas as a site for orbital launches involving what will be the most powerful rocket ever to fly.

After several earlier delays in releasing its verdict, the FAA said in late May that it would still need a few weeks to complete its so-called programmatic environmental assessment, the results of which will determine whether SpaceX can launch the Starship from Boca Chica. .

The delay is partly due to the FAA needing more time to complete its consultations with various government departments, and also to complete the review of all of the more than 17,000 public comments that were submitted. during the assessment process.

If Monday’s decision goes against SpaceX, engineers will have to transport the flight system – including the Super Heavy first stage and the Starship upper stage – from Boca Chica to a launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. about 1,000 miles to the east.

While SpaceX has already tested the Starship’s upper stage in several high-altitude test flights, the powerful Super Heavy booster has yet to fly.

The first orbital test flight of the entire vehicle could, if the FAA’s decision is in favor of SpaceX, take place within the next two months. The entire mission is expected to take around 90 minutes, with the Super Heavy rocketing the ship into orbit in 170 seconds before the two components separate.

Eager to get the rocket off the ground and send it into space, Musk recently tweeted a photo of the Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor engines.

33 Raptor rocket engines, each producing 230 tons of force

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 11, 2022

NASA is following events closely as it hopes to use the reusable spaceflight system for crewed missions to the Moon by the end of this decade, as well as possible missions to Mars.

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