SpaceX likely to miss July date for Mars rocket test
SpaceX’s spacecraft launch operations are subject to an ongoing environmental assessment. Depending on the outcome of this assessment, it may also be necessary to go through a more detailed review leading to an update of the environmental impact statement. It is only after this process is completed that the Federal Aviation Administration can move on to authorizing a possible orbital launch of a spacecraft.
Those reviews and approvals won’t be done in time for a launch in early July, according to a source familiar with the licensing process.
This means that in order for SpaceX to remain in compliance with federal rules, it will likely have to push back its target launch date.
So far, the company has only flown various early prototypes of the upper part of Starship’s spacecraft. These tests were all relatively low-speed test “hops”, which involved vehicles flying a few miles in the air before attempting to land vertically. Only one in five of these test flights performed so far has been successful.
Orbital launch would require a similar Starship spacecraft to be stacked on top of what SpaceX calls its “Super Heavy” booster, an envisioned 230-foot-tall monster that has been around for years in various design renderings and mockups but has not. yet been completely assembled or launched.
The upper Starship spacecraft will continue in orbit, burning its engines for about nine minutes. About an hour and a half later, it would dive back into Earth’s atmosphere and land in the Pacific, about 60 miles from the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
The document did not give a proposed flight date, although it listed a “requested operating period” between June 20 and December 20, 2021.
Twenty-five days from Monday, when the speech was broadcast for Northwestern students, would be July 9, although it’s not clear when Shotwell recorded the opening speech.
Musk shared an early morning update on Twitter on Tuesday, confirming that SpaceX is continuing to replenish the first Super Heavy booster at its South Texas facility.
The final version of the Superior Starship spacecraft is expected to contain six rocket engines, while the Super Heavy booster could have nearly 30, giving the rocket over 16 million pounds of thrust. That’s more than double the total thrust of NASA’s Saturn V rocket, which propelled the moon landings of the mid-20th century, and has for decades held the record for the most powerful launcher ever used.
SpaceX is known for setting aggressive target dates for and exceeding major test launches. It is common in the aerospace industry for the design and development of new spacecraft to take much longer than initially expected.
But SpaceX has been particularly aggressive with its spacecraft test program, seeking to conduct test flights quickly in order to collect data rather than taking the more traditional approach of thoroughly verifying a spacecraft’s design. and subject it to numerous ground tests before placing it on a launch pad. .
This issue has since been resolved, allowing the company to move forward with suborbital testing of its prototype Starship spacecraft.
But approval of an orbital launch depends on whether federal regulators can determine that the Super Heavy booster, which contains many times the amount of energy as the part of the spacecraft alone, can be launched from it. South Texas without posing a significant threat to property, people or the surrounding environment.