For all those keeping score, it is time. SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell recently said that the company is planning to launch Starship’s first orbital mission.
“We are headed for our first orbital attempt in the not-too-distant future. We’re shooting for July,” Shotwell said, according to SpaceNews.
The announcement was made at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference on Friday, according to SpaceNews. Still, we are not sure that they could achieve it within the specified timeline because it might be a probability that it is just one of their go-getting unattainable plans. However, Shotwell has a record of getting things done quickly, so we can’t say much. Though, there are a lot of important things to be taken care of before the launch.
SpaceX hasn’t yet received the regulatory approvals needed for such a launch; however, Shotwell didn’t mention that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hasn’t yet issued the launch license. And as there’s not much time left, it is getting crucial with every passing day to achieve the set target within the specified time frame.
According to the plan, Starship would lift off from Boca Chica just like previous high-altitude tests. After reaching orbital altitude, the Super Heavy booster would land in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast from Boca Chica, while the upper stage would go into orbit for a little while before splashing down in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
“I am hoping we make it, but we all know this is difficult. We are really on the cusp of flying that system, or at least attempting the first orbital flight of that system, in the very near term.” Said Shotwell
As a part of the licensing process, the FAA is performing an environmental review of launches from Boca Chica. The agency said that the original environmental impact statement for the site, prepared in 2014 when SpaceX was contemplating launching Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, did not apply to the far larger Starship/Super Heavy vehicles.
The FAA has not provided an update on the status of the environmental assessment, which would include publication of a draft version for public comment before a final version. It is unlikely that process could be done in time to support a launch in the near future.
Yet, Shotwell seems hopeful.
“I never want to predict dates because we’re still in development, but very soon,” she said at the event.