SpaceX’s first orbital launch Spaceship The Mars rocket has been pushed back for at least another month.
SpaceX intended to kick off that important test mission shortly after the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) concluded an environmental assessment of Starbase, the South Texas site where the company builds, tests, and launches the vehicles Starship.
That review was originally supposed to be done by December 31. But a few days before the deadline, the FAA set a tentative completion date. back February 28citing the need for further consultation with other agencies and consideration of the thousands of public comments submitted in response to the draft review, published in September.
And today (February 14), the agency notified that the final report has been delayed again, this time to March 28, to allow more time for comment review and interagency consultation.
The timeline change is probably not a shock to SpaceX or its founder and CEO, Elon Musk. For example, in a Starship update that went live last week, Musk said the company had “received a preliminary indication” that the FAA would likely be approved in March.
If that really happens, don’t wait long before Starship’s first orbital attempt.
“So right now, I think we’re on track to get regulatory approval and hardware ready at the same time,” Musk said in a statement. Starship update.
Of course, an approval is not the only possible outcome. The FAA may decide that an environmental impact statement – a more in-depth and time-consuming assessment – is necessary for operations at Starbase. If that’s the case, the first Starship orbital test flight will likely take place from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC), on Florida’s Cape Canaveral, Musk said.
“We are actually approved from an environmental point of view to launch from 39A,” he said. “So I guess our worst-case scenario is that we, I don’t know, will be delayed by six to eight months to build the Cape launch tower and launch from there.”
(SpaceX has performed several missions, including Dragon capsule cargo and crew flights to the International Space Station, from Pad 39A. But Starship required a larger launch tower.)
SpaceX ultimately aims to launch Starship from multiple locations. For example, the company is also modifying two deep-sea oil rigs to serve as launch towers for the giant vehicle, Musk said during a talk with Starship.
Starship consists of two elements, a giant early stage booster known as the Super Heavy and a 165-foot (50-meter) tall spacecraft called the Starship. Both are designed to be completely and quickly reusable, a breakthrough that Musk and SpaceX believe will make the colonization of Mars and other major feats of discovery physically possible. economy.
Prototypes of the Stars spacecraft have so far made several test flights from Starbase, but all have been relatively short flights reaching a maximum altitude of about 6.2 miles (10 km). It is clear that the upcoming orbital flight will go much higher and farther, and it will mark the first time a Super Heavy has participated.
The FAA’s delay announcement comes on the same day as other big SpaceX and Starship news: Billionaire Jared Isaacman announced today that he has… book three space flights with the company, including a mission that would be the first crewed Starship mission.
Isaacman is a regular customer of SpaceX. He booked and commanded Inspiration4, the first completely private crewed mission to Earth orbit, using a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and a Dragon capsule. Inspiration4 launched in September, sending Isaacman and three others into a three-day orbit.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out there“(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow them on Twitter @Spacedotcom or above Facebook.
https://www.space.com/faa-spacex-starship-review-delayed-march-28 FAA pushes review of SpaceX Spacecraft to March 28