SpaceX’s giant Starship Mars rocket could attempt to go into orbit for the first time as soon as next week.
SpaceX is developing Starships to carry people and cargo to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The deep space transportation system consists of a massive first-stage booster called the Super Heavy and an upper-stage spacecraft known as a Starship, both of which are designed to be fully reusable.
For months now, SpaceX has been preparing for the first orbital test flight of the spacecraft, which will be performed by the Super Heavy Booster 7 prototype and a starship called Ship 24.
In mid-March, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said the historic flight, from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in south Texas, could lift off as soon as the third week of April. But recent developments suggest that the attempt may come sooner than that.
Related: SpaceX’s first orbital spacecraft looks super cool in these fuel test photos
Don’t be fooled by the date… Ship 24 is already on the launch pad! – @NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/bvPo23ZMGwApril 1, 2023
For example, SpaceX rolled Ship 24 to Starbase’s Orbital Launch Pad (Opens in a new tab) Over the weekend, many Starship observers took notice. And on Monday (April 3) the company conducted Fueling tests with Booster 7 (Opens in a new tab) on the orbital launch pad, with ship 24 on the ground nearby.
In addition, navigational warnings have been issued for the Starship orbital attempt, as a satellite tracker based in the Netherlands Marko Langbroek notes (Opens in a new tab). These warnings cover a window from April 6 to April 12.
It doesn’t look like SpaceX will try to get to the first part of the proposed window. For starters, the company is still waiting for a launch permit from the US Federal Aviation Administration, Musk said last month.
But April 10 or April 11 seem like real possibilities, according to Eric Berger of Ars Technica.
Apparently, NASA tentatively reserves the “use of its high-altitude WB-57 aircraft to observe the Starship test flight on April 10 and 11.” Berger wrote over the weekend (Opens in a new tab). “The agency is closely following SpaceX’s progress with the massive rocket, as it intends to use the Starship as a lunar lander for its astronauts as part of the Artemis moon missions.”
The orbital test flight would attempt to send Ship 24 on a single lap around the Earth, culminating in a crash into the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Musk recently said that Starship has a 50% chance of success in this debut attempt. But SpaceX is building several Starship prototypes at Starbase and plans to launch them in relatively quick succession when they’re ready.
Musk said on March 7 during Interview at the Morgan Stanley conference (Opens in a new tab).
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