(WASHINGTON) After receiving a long-awaited clearance from the US air regulator, SpaceX announced that on Monday it is targeting the first test flight of the Starship in its full configuration, the world’s largest rocket.
This 120-meter launcher, which Elon Musk has been developing for years, is intended for travel in deep space, to the moon and Mars.
It is scheduled to take off from the Starbase space base, located in the far south of Texas, in the United States.
SpaceX announced Friday that the two-and-a-half-hour shooting window opens Monday at 7 a.m. local time (8 a.m. ET). Back-up dates are scheduled for the week.
The outcome of the test is uncertain, but SpaceX has said its success will be measured by “how much it learned” from it.
“Success maybe, glorification guaranteed!” Elon Musk tweeted.
This launcher never flew in its full configuration, with its first stage named Super Heavy.
Only the second stage of the vehicle, the Starship spacecraft that gives its name to the entire rocket, has carried out suborbital test flights (at an altitude of about 10 km), many of which ended in impressive explosions.
This is the spacecraft chosen by NASA to land astronauts on the Moon during the Artemis 3 mission, which is officially scheduled for 2025.
On Friday, the US Civil Aviation Regulatory Authority (FAA) issued a flight license to Starship “valid for five years.”
In the future, both stages of the spacecraft should be able to rest on Earth, making the rocket fully reusable. But for this first flight, there will be no attempt to recover it, and both Starship and Super Heavy are expected to crash into the ocean.
The idea of a reusable launcher, Elon Musk’s grand strategy, is to cut prices. Thus, each flight on the spacecraft could eventually cost “less than ten million” dollars, as he has asserted in the past.
In February, SpaceX conducted an impressive ground test of its Super Heavy engines. A total of 31 of the 33 Raptor engines ignited, “the largest number of synchronous rocket engine ignitions in history,” according to SpaceX.
A few months ago, NASA’s SLS rocket (98 meters high) became the most powerful operational rocket in the world during its maiden flight of the Artemis lunar mission 1. It can therefore be removed as early as next week.
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