SpaceX working toward April 17 launch 0f Starship – pending regulatory approval

The 2018 version of the Big Falcon Rocket at stage separation: Starship (foreground) and Super Heavy (background)
Credit – r Space Exploration Technologies Corp. Public Domain

Hopes remain high that SpaceX’s Ship 24 and Booster 7 could rise out of Starbase in the second half of April.

In a Tweet on Thursday, SpaceX appeared to clear up any misunderstandings over when the Starship will actually launch, saying the company will perform a final major test before the launch attempt, “a wet dress rehearsal that could take place as soon as Tuesday, April 11.”

Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and chief executive, later confusingly tweeted that the vehicle is “ready to launch next week.” However, neither the company nor the Federal Aviation Administration appears to be planning for a launch the week of April 10, according to Space News,

In an Operations Plan Advisory document by the FAA, used to support flight planning, the agency lists a first launch date of April 17 for the Starship flight, with backup dates of April 18 through 21. All the dates have the same window from 8 to 11:05 a.m. Eastern.

Barring any unforeseen problems, such as a hurricane or whatever, a wet dress rehearsal could take place as soon as Tuesday, April 11. That will leave one big remaining hurdle – the issuance of a launch license from the FAA.

 While such regulatory matters are uncertain, a source told ArsTechnica that good progress is being made toward issuing such a license during the first two weeks of April.

The last major testing milestone for the launch was a static-fire test of the Super Heavy booster on February 9. While only 31 of the 33 Raptor engines in the booster fired, the company deemed the test a success.

To date, Starship’s biggest test has been the Static Fire of 31 engines at 50 percent of rated thrust. For launch, Starship requires all 33 Raptor 2s to fire at 90 percent of rated thrust.

The company had referred to the upcoming test as the first orbital flight demonstration of Starship, although current plans do not call for the vehicle to complete one orbit.

Instead, the Starship’s upper stage will splash down in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. It’s unclear if Starship will actually enter orbit, then immediately perform a deorbit burn to splash down, or if instead, it is a long suborbital flight.

SpaceX working toward April 17 launch 0f Starship – pending regulatory approval

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