The SpaceX Starship is launching its first orbital mission in the very near future. President Gwynne Shotwell said the company is "shooting for July" as it presses ahead with the orbital flight.
SpaceX Starship Orbital Test Flight
During the National Space Society's International Space Development Conference (ISDC) on June 25, Shotwell spoke about pushing on with its launch plans with the Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage from the company's test site in Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceNews reported.
They are on the cusp of flying the system in the very near term, she said. Though still in development, the flight does look optimistic to follow through in the upcoming weeks.
The last Starship prototype was flown on May 5, flying to an altitude of 10 kilometers before making a successful landing. The four previous prototypes tested from December 2020 and March 2021 were unable to succeed in that feat.
We’re almost done with first prototype booster. This will go to test stand A. Next one will fly to orbit. Team has been crushing it many days & nights in a row!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 25, 2021
The Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation has to run a few environmental assessments in Boca Chica before it can issue a license for the Starship and Super Heavy, though.
If the assessment concludes that there is no significant impact, or mitigation measures are needed to allow for the launch, SpaceX could very well push through with the July date. However, if it concludes that a more detailed environmental impact statement would be required, a delay in the admission of the license will definitely push the launch schedule back.
The FAA has not provided an update on the status of the environmental assessment as of yet. SpaceNews also noted that the company's existing license only covers suborbital flights of the Starship.
Starship Super Heavy— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 25, 2021
Starship Mission Details
In a Federal Communications Commission on May 13, the private space flight company outlined the flight plan for the mission. This license application mentioned that the flight would take place during a six-month window beginning on June 20.
The Starship and Super Heavy mission will begin with liftoff from Boca Chica. The Super Heavy booster would land in the Gulf of Mexico, just a ways off the coast from Boca Chica at around minute three after the lift-off. The Starship would then go into orbit and then reenter after less than one orbit, and head down 100 kilometers northwest of the Kauai island in Hawaii after about 90 minutes, Yahoo! Finance says.
Cool, but an unnecessary complication for now. These are being removed to speed up time to orbital launch.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 24, 2021
The landing of the SN15 vehicle was successful last May made it viable for a second suborbital flight; however, it was moved from the launch pad. Prototype SN16 is still sitting on the production site.
This SN16 prototype might be the vehicle that will perform the first orbital flight for SpaceX's Starship.
SpaceX Starship Launch Date and Where to Watch
Specific dates for the launch have not yet been released. Although a flight plan and a window of six months has been applied for, the FAA has not yet gotten back to approve the application.
Announcements of the launch would be coursed through the company's social media platforms and websites as it does with all its launches.