New orbital launch date for SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket

SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk has revealed a timeframe for the first orbital launch of a Starship SN20 prototype, Musk remains hopeful of learning valuable information regardless of the outcome.

SpaceX founder and entrepreneur Elon Musk has revealed a timeframe for the first orbital launch of a Starship SN20 prototype, Musk remains hopeful of learning valuable information regardless of the outcome.

Launching from SpaceX’s Starbase in Texas known locally as Boca Chica Beach, Starship SN20 will detach from its Super heavy booster around 3 minutes after launch, then the aircraft can enter orbit for a short while before landing in waters near Hawaii. This new prototype is powered by raptor engines, which have been used previously in a series of short altitude tests preforming well. Often crashing once trying to land upright.

In May 2021, Starship SN15 launched and landed safely, blasting off using the companies own Raptor engines, only launching for a short period of time and ending up rising 6 miles in total. It touched down safely without exploding thereafter which can’t be said for SN15’s four immediate predecessors which were destroyed upon attempting to land either on, shortly before or moments after the touchdown.

SN15 was a full scale Starship prototype however it featured only three Raptor engines, Starship SN20 will include 6 Raptors and its Super Heavy booster will sport around 30! Since May, SpaceX have used all data gathered from successful and unsuccessful launches to develop the SN20 Prototype which will be the first of the Starship spaceships to reach orbit.

For now, this launch is on hold while awaiting the results of an environmental investigation into the companies Texas based facility, dubbed ‘Starbase’, SpaceX have been hoping to launch this test flight since May. The investigation will conclude December 31st Giving the first go ahead for this orbital launch.

Musk expects this first orbital flight to take place within January or a short time afterwards. However, that doesn’t mean Starship will reach orbit in January, as Musk was careful to note. “There’s a lot of risk associated with this first launch,” he said. “So, I would not say that it is likely to be successful, but I think we will make a lot of progress.”

The environmental investigation held by the Federal Aviation Administration aims to hear local voices in the decision and held two public hearings on the matter, both sides of the argument were heard. Multiple residents brought up economic benefits, already feeling the much-needed development in a poor community arguing that any environmental impact would be outweighed by local growth in the years to come.

A Brownsville, Texas, city commissioner, Jessica Tetreau-Kalifa, said at the Oct. 18 hearing that SpaceX had turned the city from one of the poorest in the country to “one of the most sought-after ZIP codes” to live and work. “I don’t just ask you; I beg you to give them that permit.”

We will soon know the results of this investigation however the outlook is speculated to be in favour of SpaceX with Musk hopeful on social media, he looks towards the first launch of the newest Starship prototype with tentative optimism.

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