Science

Elon Musk Says SpaceX Could Launch Starship Orbital Flight Test Next Month

SpaceX’s latest prototype spacecraft could take off and into orbit sooner than expected.

Yesterday (October 21), SpaceX successfully completed a static fire test with its prototype SN20 spacecraft. This was a major hurdle for the spacecraft ahead of its first orbital flight test, which SpaceX had previously said would likely happen in a couple of months. But now, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said the launch could happen next month.

“If all goes well, Starship will be ready for its first orbital launch attempt next month, pending regulatory approval,” Musk tweeted today (Oct 22).

Related: SpaceX lifts a huge super heavy rocket onto launch pad

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The launch is “pending regulatory approval” as the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) needs to grant SpaceX a launch license to launch orbital flights.

Additionally, there is an environmental review that the FAA conducted of SpaceX’s operations in South Texas. A draft of the FAA review was released on September 17 and then opened for public comments and suggestions until October 18 (the FAA is still accepting comments by mail and email until November 1).

So far, according to SpaceNews, the public comments received show a serious variety of opinions about SpaceX’s plans to launch orbital flights from its facilities near the southern Texas village of Boca Chica. Some attendees shared their support for SpaceX and its launch efforts from Texas, while others expressed concern about the environmental impacts of such launches.

This review is critical for all flights into space, as the FAA must grant SpaceX a launch license for its Starship spacecraft and the company’s Super Heavy rocket that is designed to launch Starship into space. SpaceX has designed Starship, a blanket nickname that includes both the spaceship and the Super Heavy rocket, with the goal of launching both humans and cargo to the moon, Mars, and beyond.

In fact, in April, NASA awarded SpaceX a contract to build a version of Starship that would serve as the agency’s lunar lander for its Artemis program. However, work on the lander has had to be temporarily halted due to surrounding legal issues, especially as the United States Senate has directed NASA to choose a second company to build another lunar lander as a backup. Still, this Senate direction is not law and the request to add a second company may not go forward.

Email Chelsea Gohd at cgohd@ or follow her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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