ORLANDO, Fla. — After running through a successful test fire this month, SpaceX is set to fly its massive Starship and Super Heavy rocket, and is just waiting on the Federal Aviation Administration for the green light, according to one company official.
Speaking at the Space Mobility Conference in Orlando on Tuesday, Gary Henry, the senior adviser for national security space solutions for SpaceX, said the Feb. 10 test during which 31 of the 33 engines of the powerful booster made a full test fire was “really the last box to check.”
“The vehicle’s in good shape. The pad’s in good shape — pretty much all of the prerequisites that come to supporting an orbital demonstration attempt here in the next month or so look good,” he said.
On launch if it makes orbit it will become the most powerful rocket to ever do so producing 17.5 million pounds of thrust, which far exceeds the current title holder, NASA’s Space Launch System rocket that was used on Artemis I last November. That rocket produced 8.8 million pounds of thrust.
Henry said the launch attempt from the company’s Boca Chica, Texas facility could come in just weeks.
“The FAA has a role here, right, so there is a launch license that is required and we hope to secure that license in the near future, and I think there is some Musk TV in our future here probably in the month of March and I would encourage all of you to tune in when that time comes,” he said.
The Starship 24 rocket itself has six Raptor 2 engines. The test flight looks to have it separate from the Super Heavy 7 booster over the Gulf of Mexico. While the booster attempts a landing on a barge, the Starship 24 will continue on an orbit around the Earth and land back in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
It would be the first fully reusable rocket if it can stick both landings.
The success of the Starship program is essential to NASA’s plans to return humans to the lunar surface by 2025. SpaceX was awarded the Human Landing System contract for both the Artemis III and IV missions. For Artemis III, which looks to bring the first woman to the moon, she and one other astronaut will leave the Orion spacecraft while orbiting the moon after climbing aboard a docked version of Starship, which will then bring them down to a location on the south pole. It would be the first time humans returned to the moon since Apollo 17 landed more than 50 years ago in 1972.
While the test flights of Starship are slated from Texas, work continues for it to launch from KSC’s Launch Complex 39-A where its current stable of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets take off.
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