The hotly anticipated orbital launch of SpaceX’s Starship rocket is likely to happen in the third week of April, the company and CEO Elon Musk said yesterday (April 6).
Starship is a nearly 400-foot-tall rocket designed to fly humans to Mars one day. The upcoming orbital flight is an attempt to test the vehicle’s capability to carry out regular space missions and potentially go further in space in the future. If launched successfully, Starship will be the tallest spacecraft ever reach Earth’s orbit.
Last weekend, SpaceX rolled out the prototype used for the orbital test, called Ship 24, to a launch pad in its Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The company said in a tweet yesterday (April 6) its team is working toward a launch rehearsal next week, with the actual flight taking off one week later.
Musk retweeted the post and confirmed that Starship is stacked and ready to launch next week, pending regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Previous clues, including the scheduling of NASA’s observing aircraft and the Defense Department’s navigation warnings, suggested Starship could launch on April 10 or April 11. But new information shows SpaceX is more likely to conduct ground tests on those dates.
Yesterday, Texas’s Cameron County, where the Starbase site is located, ordered the closure of Boca Chica Beach and a highway near SpaceX’ facility on April 10 for the company’s “non-flight test activities,” according to a notice signed by County Judge Eddy Trevino Jr.
The county offered two alternate dates of April 11 and April 12 in case SpaceX doesn’t complete the planned tests on April 10.
“These dates align with what I’ve been hearing recently, that SpaceX is working toward an April 17 launch attempt of the Starship vehicle,” Eric Berger, a senior space editor at Ars Technica, wrote today (April 7). The only thing pending is an FAA launch license. “While such regulatory matters are uncertain, a source said good progress is being made toward issuing such a license during the first two weeks of April,” Berger wrote.