SpaceX's first orbital launch of Starship likely to go ahead in April

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently stated Starship has a roughly 50% chance of reaching orbit on its first try.
Chris Young
Starship at Starbase.
Starship at Starbase.

SpaceX / Twitter 

SpaceX's massive next-generation Starship spacecraft could launch on its first orbital test flight within the next few weeks.

SpaceX is currently eyeing a mid to late April launch date for the historic mission, which is set to take to the skies from the firm's Starbase launch facility in South Texas.

SpaceX readies Starship for orbit

SpaceX successfully completed a full flight-like wet dress rehearsal of Starship in late January, leading Musk to state that the private space firm would likely make an orbital launch attempt in February or March. Given the fact that we're in the last week of March, the estimated launch date has unsurprisingly been moved back a little.

Last week, Musk took to Twitter to state that "SpaceX will be ready to launch Starship in a few weeks, then launch timing depends on FAA license approval. Assuming that takes a few weeks, first launch attempt will be near end of third week of April..."

Starship is part of SpaceX's plans to eventually get humans to Mars. To do so, the company is building the next-generation spacecraft, which will eventually be fully reusable. The reusability will dramatically cut the costs of successive launches, making trips to the red planet economically feasible.

The full Starship launch system is made up of a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper-stage, referred to as Starship, and a massive first-stage booster called Super Heavy. Both are powered by SpaceX's new Raptor engines. Super Heavy features 33 Raptor engines, while Starship is equipped with six.

Elon Musk says SpaceX has 50% chance of reaching orbit on first try

The Starship upper stage has carried out flight tests before, but only to high altitudes of roughly 6 miles (10 kilometers) above Earth. During those tests, the Starship prototype performed some impressive belly-flop maneuvers, as well as (sometimes) explosive landings.

April's orbital test flight, however, will be the first time SpaceX actually attempts to send Starship to orbit. It will also be the first launch of the company's Super Heavy booster stage. That's not to say the spacecraft is guaranteed to make it to orbital space.

Musk recently pointed out that Starship probably has a roughly 50 percent chance of reaching orbit on its first attempt. "I'm not saying it will get to orbit, but I am guaranteeing excitement," the maverick CEO said.

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