SpaceX’s Starship rocket could launch next month, NASA says

A fully stacked Starship sits on the pad at Starbase.

A fully stacked Starship sits on the pad at Starbase.
Photo: SpaceX

SpaceX’s superheavy rocket could finally be ready to embark on its first orbital test flight in December, according to a NASA official.

At a NASA advisory board meeting on Monday, Mark Kirasitcha senior NASA official overseeing the development of the Artemis programsaid Starship test flight could take place early next month, Reuters reported. “We are tracking four major Starship flights. The first one here is coming in December, part of early December,” Kirasich reportedly said.

Starship is a fully reusable super-heavy launch vehicle designed to travel to Earth orbit, the Moon, and possibly even other destinations like Mars. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was eager to see the craft fly, suggesting earlier that the the rocket could take off in November.

Of course we have learned not to take Musk’s promises to heart. In June, Musk said Starship would be ready for its first orbital flight in Julyan assertion that he made shortly after getting the green light from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a controversy expansion of the SpaceX Starbase facility site in Boca Chica, Texas.

The higher level Spatialship 24 prototype is currently being tested at the Starbase facility where it is fully stacked on the pad. The SpaceX system consists of the Starship spacecraft and the Super Heavy booster, both designed to be fully reusable and powered by SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engines (33 for the booster and six for the spacecraft).

The company completed a seven-engine static fire test at Starbase in September. Afterwards, the prototype was rolled back to the Starship factory for “robustness upgrades ahead of flight,” SpaceX wrote on Twitter at the time. The ship was rolled on the carpet in early October.

The orbital test flight involves the launch of the Starship rocket into space, where it will complete less than one full orbit around Earth and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. The upper stage will crash about 100 km off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii, while the Super Heavy booster will descend into the Gulf of Mexico. The booster could roll back and attempt an assisted vertical landing on the launch pad, but this has not been confirmed.

More on this story: SpaceX may try to capture a booster in the spacecraft’s first orbital launch

The ship must fly soon. According to a $2.89 billion contract with NASAthe company must demonstrate that Starship can land humans on the Moon by the end of 2025 as part of the space agency’s Artemis 3 mission. But SpaceX still has an exceptional list of regulatory requirements that it must complete to obtain its license from the FAA, and it is not yet clear whether the company has completed them.

This latest prediction has us excited for a December launch, because NASA is do that claim and not Musk for once. Yet we will believe it when we see the rocket finally take off.

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