When SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk on September 28, 2019 gave an official update on his company’s Starship development program in Boca Chica, SpaceX had successfully launched and landed its first working Starship prototype, the single-engine Starhopper, only a month before. .
Now Musk is giving another Starship update, tweeting last week that it would take place at the Starbase complex in Boca Chica at 8 p.m. on February 10. This time around, the company has a successful high-altitude launch and landing to its credit (May 5, 2021, flight of the full-size Starship SN15 prototype) and the six-engine Starship SN20 and its massive Super Heavy BN4 thruster at 29 engines on the launch pad being prepared for SpaceX’s first orbital Starship launch.
Musk’s update will be streamed live on SpaceX’s YouTube channel.
The Federal Aviation Administration said it would release the results of its programmatic environmental assessment of the company’s plans for orbital launch operations at Boca Chica this month. Dec. 31 was the original deadline for the agency to complete the review, although the FAA announced last year that it needed more time due to the high volume of public comment generated by the project. of PEA published in September.
February 28 is the FAA’s new deadline for publishing the final PEA. Based on the findings of the review, the FAA may issue SpaceX a launch license for this first orbital flight, or not issue the license and require that a full environmental impact statement be made before authorizing any orbital flight from Boca Chica.
SpaceX plans to launch the 165-foot-tall SN20, outfitted with black thermal tiles to protect it during re-entry, from Boca Chica, but land it in the Pacific Ocean inside the Pacific Missile Range Facility at the Marine about 60 miles north of Kauai, Hawaii. The 230-foot-tall Super Heavy booster would separate from Starship just over two minutes into flight and splash down in the Gulf of Mexico about 20 miles offshore if things go as planned.
Musk, speaking at a joint meeting of the Board of Space Studies and the Board of Physics and Astronomy of National Academies in November, eased expectations for Starship’s first orbital flight.
“There are a lot of risks associated with this first launch, so I wouldn’t say it’s likely to be successful, but I think we’ll make a lot of progress,” he said.
Musk also said that “Starship is designed to be a generalized transportation mechanism for the larger solar system.”
So far, two static fire tests have been carried out on the SN20 engines, in November and December, and a three-engine static fire test has been carried out on the BN4 in July. SpaceX has also erected a 440-foot-tall “launch and capture” tower, as Musk described via Twitter last month, with gigantic robotic arms that will be used to grab the next Super Heavy boosters when they land. .
Starship and Super Heavy are being developed for quick reuse to reduce the huge cost of space travel. Musk has described it as the “holy grail of space”.
In April, NASA awarded SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop Starship as a lunar lander to send American astronauts to the moon again as part of the space agency’s Artemis program. The last man to walk on the Moon was Apollo 17 mission commander Eugene Cernan, who did so on December 12, 1972.
At press time, the closures of Boca Chica Beach and State Hwy. 4 from FM 1419 (Oklahoma Avenue) to the beach was scheduled from today through February 10 from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day for SpaceX testing activities.