SpaceX president says Starship could launch to orbit from Texas next month
SpaceX's new Starship rocket, designed to be fully reusable and to allow humans to eventually reach Mars, will likely launch on a test flight from Texas in June or July, SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said, according to a Bloomberg report.
The company recently launched Crew-4 as well as 53 more Starlink satellites into orbit. It also oversaw the splashdown of its Crew-3 mission in collaboration with NASA.
The next SpaceX mission, the rideshare mission Transporter 5, is expected to launch on June 1 using a Falcon 9 rocket.
Shotwell: Human exploration on Mars is "inevitable"
SpaceX's next-generation launch vehicle, Starship, is set to vastly boost the company's spaceflight abilities by enabling fully reusable spaceflight — the company currently reuses Falcon 9 first stage boosters, leaving the second stage to disintegrate on reentry. Starship will bring SpaceX a step closer to one of its primary goals of lowering the cost of space travel to the point that human spaceflight to Mars is feasible.
Speaking at an engineering conference, Shotwell said that human exploration on Mars is "inevitable" and also highlighted the potential of nuclear propulsion for deep space travel. Shotwell also said she won't be one of the people to eventually go to Mars using SpaceX's technology: "I don't like camping," she said.
The SpaceX President said she believes Starship could launch from the company's Texas, Boca China launch site as soon as next month. The company has conducted a number of Starship prototype test flights at the same location.
SpaceX awaits the green light for the Starship launch
Before Starship can launch into orbit, SpaceX has to wait for an environmental review from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted that Starship's orbital maiden flight could occur as soon as May, though the FAA later announced it was delaying the publication of its environmental review and that it would be published no earlier than May 31.
Starship will use one of SpaceX's newest engines, Raptor V2, which provides up to 25 percent more power at 230 tons or ~500k lbs thrust at sea level. The launch vehicle will reuse its high-cost components, vastly reducing the overall cost of successive launches.
The SpaceX president also highlighted the role its collaboration with NASA will play in making Mars expeditions possible. In April last year, NASA announced it was awarding SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract to develop a version of its Starship launch vehicle to be used as the Moon lander for Artemis III, its first crewed mission to the Moon since 1972.