SpaceX Starship orbital test flight
February 11, 2022 - The first orbital flight of SpaceX’s Starship -- the most powerful rocket ever built -- could come within months. NASA has picked the fully reusable Starship to return astronauts on the moon.
In a presentation on Thursday (February 10, 2022), SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said the first orbital Starship flight could come in another month or two, maybe March. Thursday’s presentation was the first formal update Musk had given on the progress of Starship’s development in two years.
“Let’s make this real!” Musk said while standing alongside the Starship rocket and its massive Super Heavy booster at the Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
“This is really some wild stuff here,” he said. “In fact, hard to believe it’s real.”
The orbital test flight of SpaceX’s Starship will see Serial Number 20 (SN20) fly atop a giant Booster 4 launcher. Booster 4 will splash down in the Gulf of Mexico while SN20 orbits Earth. The landmark liftoff is awaiting a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration environmental review of the Starbase facility.
The fully reusable Starship system will send people and cargo to the moon, Mars and other distant planets. Starship prototypes have flown before, but only reaching maximum altitudes of around 10 kilometres. Those previous launches involved Starship vehicles with no more than three Raptor rocket engines, and none of them lifted off atop a Super Heavy booster.
Booster 4’s 29 massive Raptor engines will fire for 169 seconds before releasing Starship. SN20 will fly powered by six engines -- three sea-level engines for atmospheric flight and three large vacuum-optimized Raptors for high performance in space.
Starship will soar into orbit and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, 100km northwest of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says a key goal is to ensure reusable Starship rockets. Future tests will see both stages return to the launch pad rather than splashdown in the ocean. NASA has scheduled the first mission to put humans on the moon’s surface since 1972 for 2025.