Monday, November 28, 2022
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a first orbital flight before Christmas?

According to a new report from NASA, which is closely following the development of its future lunar lander, SpaceX’s new Starship prototype spacecraft may make its first-ever orbital test flight in December.

We expected it to July, to August, then to September and November. The latest news is that the first orbital test flight of SpaceX’s Starship will have to wait a while longer. In fact, according to senior NASA official Mark Kirasich, SpaceX will eventually fly its prototype In December.

These schedule delays are not uncommon in the space sector, especially when it comes to the design of one completely new means of transport. Separately, SpaceX’s desire to fly an orbital mission with Starship prompted a lengthy environmental review by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

It is this investigation that is probably still preventing SpaceX from completing this long-awaited flight. If the FAA completed that assessment in June, SpaceX would still have to take 75 more steps reduce its environmental impact on the region. An FAA spokesman told Reuters on Monday that the agency will grant an orbital launch license only after SpaceX takes action. Thus, it appears that the company has not quite finished “doing its homework”.

Artist’s rendering of the starship breaking free from its booster in orbit. Credit: SpaceX

NASA very concerned

That NASA communicates about the project’s progress is also not surprising. The agency is obviously keeping a close eye on the Starship’s progress, for which it was chosen put the next humans on the Moon in 2025 and 2027 as part of the Artemis 3 and 4 missions. In the meantime, the spacecraft must of course succeed in this first orbital flight, but also attempt a first landing on the Moon empty (without a crew).

Keep in mind that no Starship prototype has taken off since May 2021 and that all the flights attempted so far have only reached one maximum height of only about ten kilometers.

moon starship nasa
Illustration of a spaceship on the surface of the moon. Credit: NASA

If all goes as planned, the upcoming mission will aim to place a prototype Starship into orbit. It will be propelled into space by the Super Heavy booster. A priori, it is not expected that this booster will return to Earth at the moment. In turn, the craft will try to land on the side of Hawaii. SpaceX has also already conducted a series of static launch tests to prepare for its mission, which will last approximately 90 minutes.


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