The test flight will take off from South Texas, pass over the Gulf of Mexico, and then land near Hawaii.
April 17 update, 9:30PM EDT: Due to a refueling issue, SpaceX has canceled today's launch attempt. A new attempt will be made on April 19 at the earliest. We will update our news as soon as a new launch time is announced.
SpaceX is gearing up for an important milestone: the first launch of a Super Heavy rocket and Starship upper stage combination at near orbital velocity.
On April 5, the massive 394 feet (120 meters) two-stage Starship was docked in the orbital launch dock on Starbase and prepared for testing prior to launch.
Super Heavy, a massive first-tier booster, and Starship, an upper-tier spacecraft, make up Starship. In particular, Ship 24 and Booster 7 prototypes will be used in the test flight.
The first orbital journey was eagerly awaited. Starship and test flights are among the most fascinating developments in the space industry. However, this test flight will be just one of several flights before the launcher is fully operational.
Once airborne, the entire journey will take approximately 90 minutes and will begin at Starbase before heading east across the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Straits before landing near Hawaii.
Super Heavy and Starship are intended to be fully reusable, but Booster 7 and Ship 24 will only be used once. Instead of making a vertical, powered landing on solid ground or a “drone ship,” as the first stages of SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets often do, both vehicles will land in the ocean.
According to SpaceX's mission statement, Booster 7's 33 Raptor methane-liquid oxygen engines are scheduled to shut down at 169 seconds of flight and leave Ship 24 three seconds later. About eight minutes after launch, Booster 7 will re-ignite a handful of its engines to send it back toward Texas before dropping off about 32 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico.
After 177 seconds, a little less than three minutes into flight, the six Raptor engines in the Starship upper stage will fire, allowing the vehicle to continue on its eastward path. These engines will turn off at the 6,5th second of the flight after running for approximately 560 minutes.
If all goes as planned, Ship 24 will not complete orbit of Earth, but will come very close to the point known as orbital velocity at an altitude of about 150 miles. Federal Aviation Administration officials call this a flight close to orbital speed.
The Starship will then test its capabilities by re-entering Earth's atmosphere at high speed. If all goes according to plan, it will fall about (100 km) off the northwest coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
This jump is scheduled to occur 90 minutes after takeoff from Boca Chica. It is hoped that the test flight will provide SpaceX with lots of useful data as it works to get Starship fully operational.
The test flight was described in a document SpaceX submitted to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2021. “SpaceX aims to collect as much data as possible during flight to measure input dynamics and better understand what the vehicle is going through in a flight regime that is extremely difficult to computationally accurately predict or replicate,” the document said.
This information will provide a basis for changes to the vehicle's design or CONOPs (operational concept) after the first flight and will help create more accurate simulation models for internal use.
According to information SpaceX provided to the FCC in 2021, both the launcher and Starship spacecraft will be equipped with Starlink satellite terminals to provide high data rate communications during flight.
“When ionized plasma around the spacecraft interferes with standard telemetry frequencies, SpaceX's satellite array can provide previously unheard volumes of telemetry and allow communication during atmospheric entry. According to the dossier, these tests will show how they can improve the effectiveness and safety of next orbital spaceflight missions.
After each test or flight, SpaceX reviews and makes adjustments to the structures, systems, and software of many prototypes of Starship components. Explosive results emerged immediately after some key milestones.
Whatever the outcome, this first flight at near-orbit velocity is the most difficult and important step ever and will teach us a lot.
SpaceX's long-term goal is to use Starship to send humans and cargo to Mars and the Moon, while also significantly reducing launch costs thanks to its reusability.
📩 18/04/2023 00:12