SpaceX's latest Starship prototype could blast off into orbit earlier than expected.
Yesterday (Oct. 21), SpaceX completed a successful static fire test with its SN20 Starship prototype. This was a major hurdle for the spacecraft ahead of its first orbital flight test, which SpaceX had previously stated would likely happen within a couple of months. But now, SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said that the launch could happen as soon as next month.
If all goes well, Starship will be ready for its first orbital launch attempt next month, pending regulatory approvalOctober 22, 2021
The launch is "pending regulatory approval," as the U.S. 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's review was released on Sept. 17 and then they opened it up for public comments and suggestions until Oct. 18. (The FAA is still accepting comments by mail and email through Nov. 1.)
So far, according to SpaceNews, the public comments received show a serious variety of opinions on SpaceX's plans to launch orbital flights from their facility near the South Texas village of Boca Chica. Some attendees shared their support of SpaceX and its launch efforts from Texas, while others voiced concerns about the environmental impacts of such launches.
This review is critical for all flights to space as the FAA needs to grant SpaceX a launch license for its Starship spacecraft and the company's Super Heavy rocket that is designed to launch Starship to space. SpaceX has designed Starship, an umbrella moniker that includes both the spacecraft and Super Heavy rocket, with the goal of launching both humans and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond.
In fact, in April, NASA granted SpaceX a contract to build a version of Starship to serve as the agency's lunar lander for its Artemis program. However, work on the lander has had to be temporarily halted with surrounding legal issues, especially as NASA has now been directed by the U.S. Senate to choose a second company to build another lunar lander as a backup. Still, this direction from the Senate isn't law and the request to add a second company might not move forward.