Finally! SpaceX can launch Starship into orbit as soon as September 1
- The FCC just granted SpaceX a radio-spectrum license application, with a six-month Starship launch window starting on September 1.
- The fully reusable Starship will send astronauts back to the moon, and eventually to Mars.
- NASA could also launch its Space Launch System as soon as this month.
SpaceX won't launch the orbital maiden flight of Starship in August, according to a radio-spectrum license application the company filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
Worry not though, as the Mars-bound spacecraft could finally make its orbital test flight on September 1. That's because SpaceX set out a six-month window that opens on the first day of September. The license was granted by the FCC on Wednesday, August 10, according to Space.com.
A Starship orbital launch may be just around the corner
FCC Space Licenses, which reported the news on Twitter, urged people not to get carried away thinking Starship is certain to launch on September 1. "Reminder, this is not the same as a launch license. It is a specific radio license for the test vehicles and does not indicate a change in status. Please do not make a YouTube video or write a 20,000 [word article] about this," FCC Space Licenses, which is not run by the FCC, wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.
The reason FCC Space Licenses is urging people to temper expectations is that SpaceX still hasn't received a launch license for the Starship orbital test flight. Launch licenses are granted by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which recently published its much-delayed environmental review of Starship. In that review, the FAA set out a number of conditions that SpaceX must meet before launch.
It's also worth noting that CEO Elon Musk and company president Gwynne Shotwell have stated on separate occasions that Starship could launch in June, July, and August, meaning it's best to take any rough launch announcements with a pinch of salt.
SpaceX's Starship and NASA's SLS prepare for launch
That's not to say we're not nearing launch though. Starship is set to launch from SpaceX's Starbase facility in South Texas. The company is preparing for lift-off, and it recently conducted a "static fire" engine test with both its first-stage Super Heavy booster, called Booster 7, and its Starship prototype, dubbed Ship 24. SpaceX fired up only one of Booster 7's 33 engines on Tuesday, August 9, while Ship 24 ignited two of its six Raptor engines. While the company is making steady progress towards launch, there's still a way to go before both are ready for lift-off.
Static fire test of two Raptor engines on Starship 24 https://t.co/NNpViztphI— SpaceX (@SpaceX) ) August 10, 2022
Both Starship and Super Heavy are designed to be fully reusable, and they are powered by a total of 39 of SpaceX's next-generation Raptor engines. The improved efficiency of Raptor 2 alongside the full reusability of the launch elements is set to greatly reduce launch and operational costs, which is one of the main factors that will allow Starship to eventually take humans to Mars.
NASA, which may launch its own Space Launch System (SLS) around the moon this month — it's targeting an August 29 launch date — has opted to use Starship for its upcoming Artemis III moon landing mission. SLS isn't reusable, and it will be used for Artemis I and II, each of which will travel around the moon before returning to Earth. With preparations well underway, we're on the verge of two historic launches that will likely usher in a bold new era for spaceflight.
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