Is the SpaceX Starship about to take its 1st flight?
First flight of SpaceX Starship: Coming soon?
Is Starship about to take its first flight? Starship is SpaceX’s fully reusable heavy-lift vehicle, designed to carry crew and cargo into Earth’s orbit then to the moon and beyond. We’ve been fooled before on this first flight issue. But all signs now seem to point to yes (maybe), and very soon (maybe). We even got a typically wobbly and tantalizing tweet from Elon Musk.
More than days away, but hopefully not many weeks away
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 1, 2023
Musk posted that on April Fool’s Day, but he seemed in earnest. He was responding to Eric Berger, space editor for Ars Technica, who just reported Starship’s handlers moved the test vehicle to the launch area at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas.
A two-stage vehicle, Starship flies to orbit on the power of its main booster. Once there, the secondary crew and cargo stage delivers its payload to the final destination. Booster 7 carrying Ship 24 will be the first Starship to fly, hopefully next week.
FAA license to fly still pending
There’s another gigantic hint a test flight is coming quickly, and it has SpaceX fans’ mouths watering. Today (April 4, 2023), the Federal Aviation Administration issued a time and date for a possible Starship Super Heavy test flight. It came in the form of an Operations Advisory Plan that lists a window of 1:10 to 5:45 p.m. UTC (8:10 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. CDT) on Monday (April 10). Backup dates are April 11 and 12 with the same launch window.
Cagey as always, the official SpaceX website makes no mention of an April 10 test flight. That hasn’t kept SpaceX watchers from jumping the gun.
?SpaceX Starship launch date!!!
Starship orbital flight test scheduled for April 10th from 08:10 – 12:45 local time! Backup dates are April 11th & 12th!
This does not mean that the FAA license has been issued, but it is a very solid indicator for a launch!!!… pic.twitter.com/cPlrVSg6e6
— What about it!? (@FelixSchlang) April 4, 2023
As noted by Schlang, the FAA has yet to issue a license for the test flight, and reserving a window isn’t guarantee they will. But it sure seems likely.
Ship 24 rolls to the pad. Last time?
With a flight coming soon – even if it’s not as early as April 10 – there’s been a flurry of prep activity at Starbase, all of it seemingly aimed at getting Starship off the ground.
NASASpaceflight.com shared a video of Ship 24 – the cargo section of Starship – heading to the launch area for what editors there suspect is the last time. Booster 7, the big rocket that will do the heavy lifting as Starship’s first stage, is already sitting on the launch pad. On Monday (April 3), its fuel tanks were filled in a preflight test.
Meanwhile, at Starbase, SpaceX is conducting a propellant load test on Booster 7!
Watch LIVE: https://t.co/XCPLhFXziQ pic.twitter.com/aR36lDuUuK
— Thomas Burghardt (@TGMetsFan98) April 3, 2023
As of Monday afternoon, local time, Ship 24 is in the grips of the chopsticks on the Mechzilla launch gantry. Veteran Starship watchers anticipate it will soon be stacked atop Booster 7, completing assembly of the test vehicle. Live video from Starbase is available here.
Ride along virtually on a SpaceX Starship flight
The gargantuan Starship – its oversize cylinder stands 394 feet (120 meters) tall with a 25.5-foot (8-meter) diameter – captivates spaceflight enthusiasts. It also inspires artists. Animator Ryan Hansen, drawing on the work of the Artists of Spaceflight, has created a 20-minute video of what Starship’s maiden voyage might look like.
Hansen teased the video on his YouTube channel:
O.F.T. (Orbital Flight Test) is a fictional animation depicting a first test flight of the long-awaited SpaceX’s Starship rocket. Starship is a highly ambitious rocket design with many critical systems that have to work together perfectly in order for the aspiring goal of full and rapid reusability to become reality. Will the vehicle successfully make it past the grueling dynamics of MaxQ or will a single issue set off a cascade of failures leading to disappointment?
The technically detailed video project took nine months to complete.
Bottom line: SpaceX’s Starship could make an orbital test flight as soon as April 10, 2023.