Science

First orbital flight of SpaceX’s mega-rocket Starship in early 2022 (Elon Musk)

Published on: 11/18/2021 – 02:44Modified on: 11/18/2021 – 02:42

Washington (AFP) – Elon Musk said Wednesday that the mega-rocket Starship, developed by his company SpaceX and notably selected by NASA for the return of Americans to the Moon, would attempt its maiden orbital flight early next year.

“The first orbital flight, we hope to do it in January,” he said during a speech to scientists at the National Academy of Sciences, before later adding that the test could also take place “maybe in February.”

“There are many risks associated with this first launch, so I would not say that it is likely to be successful, but I think we will make a lot of progress,” he added.

Starship has already made several suborbital flights: after several tests that ended in impressive explosions, SpaceX had finally managed to land the spacecraft, designed to be reusable.

For this orbital test, this time it will be decked out with an ultra-powerful first stage called the Super Heavy.

Authorization from the US Federal Regulator of Civil Aviation (FAA) is expected “by the end of the year,” Musk said. “We will have completed the launch pad and launch tower this month, then we will do a series of verifications in December,” he detailed.

“We hope to test about ten launches next year,” the boss also said. “Maybe more.”

It also estimated that Starship would be operational to transport cargo outside the testing framework “in 2023.”

NASA has chosen to bet on Starship to become the lander used as part of its Artemis program back to the moon. The spacecraft will have to orbit the moon upstream, and astronauts who arrive aboard its capsule will embark there to carry them to and from the lunar surface, at the earliest in 2025.

But the head of SpaceX looks even further for this “largest rocket ever designed”: “what we seek to develop with Starship, is a generalized means of transport for large numbers of masses or people (…) in any part of the system solar. “.

In his one-hour speech broadcast live on YouTube, the SpaceX founder emphasized his vision: “I think it is extremely important that we try to become a multi-planetary species as soon as possible.” Because “in the end, … the Earth will become uninhabitable,” he declared.

Therefore, SpaceX has established a factory to produce large-scale copies of Starship. “I think to become multi-planetary, we will need 1,000 ships or something like that,” Elon Musk said.

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