SpaceX is looking to launch the long-awaited second orbital test of Starship, the company’s Mars-colonizing rocket, as soon as this Friday (Nov. 17), with two backup dates available this weekend. CEO Elon Musk said yesterday (Nov. 13) on X that SpaceX will receive a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) “in time for a Friday launch.” It has been nearly seven months since SpaceX’s first orbital attempt with Starship ended in a mid-air explosion that led to a months-long federal investigation.
The FAA has yet to announce the completion of an environmental review of Starship’s second orbital test, conducted along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The agency today (Nov. 14) issued an operation planning advisory that contained three dates on which Starship could launch: Nov. 17, Nov. 18 and Nov. 19. Also on those three dates, SpaceX has the permission to launch two Starlink satellite missions, meaning there could be three SpaceX flights in one day this weekend.
SpaceX’s official X account posted a video yesterday of a fully-stacked, nearly 400-foot-tall Starship prototype standing on a launch pad at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas.
A timeline since Starship’s first test
- April 20: SpaceX conducted the first orbital test of Starship in Boca Chica. A prototype spacecraft lifted off successfully and soared about 20 miles into the sky before blowing up. The explosion damaged the rocket’s launch pad and scattered debris and dust for miles. The whole test lasted a little more than four minutes.
- April 24: The FAA grounded SpaceX’s Starship program and launched a mishap investigation, part of a standard procedure following an anomaly during a rocket launch.
- September 8: The FAA closed the mishap investigation and ordered SpaceX to take 63 corrective actions on the next Starship prototype before it can fly. The corrective actions include redesigns of rocket hardware and the launch pad, additional reviews in the design process, and additional analysis and testing of the rocket’s safety system.
- October 31: The FAA completed the safety review of Starship’s second orbital test. At the time, an environmental review was still underway.
- Today: The FAA has yet to issue a launch license, the final step before Starship can lift off.
If all goes well, Starship’s second orbital test will last 90 minutes, according to SpaceX’s website. The most critical part of the test flight will be hot staging, where Starship’s upper stage separates from its booster and ignites its own engines. This step is expected to occur within the first three minutes of the test. After separation, Starship’s upper stage will climb to orbital altitude, while the booster will begin its descent and eventually splash down into the Gulf of Mexico.
Was just informed that approval to launch should happen in time for a Friday launch https://t.co/NshoTHdqew
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 14, 2023