SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket will “hopefully” take its first orbital flight in May, company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.
SpaceX is developing Starship to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond. The vehicle consists of two elements: a first-stage booster called Super Heavy and an upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship, Space.com reported.
“We’ll have 39 flightworthy engines built by next month, then another month to integrate, so hopefully in May for orbital flight test,” Musk said in a tweet.
However, this depends on the environmental review of Starship launch operations by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), being conducted at Starbase, SpaceX’s facility in South Texas.
According to FAA officials, the assessment is expected to be completed by March 28.
Starship and Super Heavy are both designed to be completely and rapidly reusable, and both will be powered by SpaceX’s new Raptor engine – 33 for Super Heavy and six for Starship. It’s a challenge to build so many engines, but SpaceX is on track to have enough for the first Starship orbital test flight soon, Musk said
While SpaceX has performed a number of Starship test launches, those have involved prototype upper-stage vehicles with a maximum of three Raptor engines that flew just 10 kilometres high. The upcoming orbital test flight will mark the first-ever launch of a Super Heavy as well as the first liftoff of a six-engine Starship.
The Super Heavy booster will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after liftoff. The Starship upper stage, meanwhile, will power its way to orbit, circle our planet once, and splash down in the Pacific Ocean, near the Hawaiian island of Kauai, the report said.