Elon Musk's desire to launch his magnum opus rocket, Starship, into orbit for the first time in the coming weeks is beginning to feel more feasible.
Musk responded to a question about the potential timing of Starship's maiden orbital trip on Twitter on Wednesday by saying, "Late next month maybe, but November seems quite plausible."
On May 5, 2021, the SN15 Starship prototype successfully completed a high-altitude flight inside the Earth's atmosphere and landed without exploding. That was the final time the spaceship, which NASA plans to use to return Artemis people to the lunar surface, ascended above Earth's atmosphere.
Since that time, Musk and SpaceX have been working hard to get Starship ready for its first orbital demonstration mission, which will see it launch for the first time atop a Super Heavy Booster. On the test stand, the enormous first-stage booster was just last week fired up for the first time with seven engines blazing. This is less than a fourth of the 33 total engines that will be used to launch a fully loaded Super Heavy rocket, which has more than double the number of engines compared to the previous test.
Before SpaceX can launch Starship, it must finish testing and make Super Heavy ready for launch, as well as obtain a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (not that this requirement has always stopped the company in the past).
In the end, all eyes are on the FAA because it gave SpaceX a provisional OK when the launch plan cleared a crucial environmental review in June, but 75 adjustments to the mission profile still need to be made before the license can be issued.
In the meantime, Musk hopes to do a complete "wet dress rehearsal" of the launch and conduct the first test of a 33-engine Super Heavy in the upcoming weeks.
The test flight will send Starship into orbit for a brief period of time before splashing down off the coast of Hawaii, while Super Heavy approaches for an attempt at a landing on a repurposed oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico. Starship and Super Heavy will launch together when they are eventually ready.
A fully reusable, super-heavy-lift launch vehicle called Starship is being created by American aerospace corporation SpaceX. The launch vehicle is the highest and most potent ever constructed. The Super Heavy booster stage and the Starship second stage or spaceship together make up the two-stage to orbit launch vehicle known as Starship. The spacecraft will be available in four main configurations: lunar lander, crew, propellant tanker, and cargo.