SpaceX’s flagship project, the Starship, is poised to make its long-awaited orbital test flight in March, according to CEO Elon Musk. The 120-meter tall spacecraft, which boasts the capability to produce 7,590 tons of thrust at sea level, has been a subject of constant changes over the past year and a half. This ambitious project poses a great challenge, even before it has been tested, as ensuring the starship’s reach to orbit is just the first step. The even greater challenge would be to recover it later, and there are no guarantees that the early prototypes will be reusable even if recovered.
In January, the starship underwent its first stacked fuel fill test, known as the “Wet Dress Rehearsal.” SpaceX loaded both stages of the vehicle with over 10 million pounds of liquid oxygen and methane fuel and also conducted some countdown procedures. However, the company still needs to perform the crucial Super Heavy scene – a simultaneous static ignition of all 33 Raptors engines – before it can secure approval for an orbital test flight from the Federal Aviation Administration.
The purpose of the starship is to transport cargo and individuals beyond Earth, with Elon Musk envisioning it as a crucial step in establishing a human presence on the moon and Mars. SpaceX has a multi-billion dollar contract with NASA to use the starship for astronaut returns to the moon and has plans to build various variants of the spacecraft.
Despite the delays, Elon Musk remains optimistic about the March launch attempt, provided that the remaining tests are successful. From an environmental standpoint, it is preferable to have a fully reusable vehicle as opposed to the traditional practice of discarding rockets after each launch. Whether this will be possible, however, remains to be seen. With all eyes on SpaceX, we eagerly await the outcome of the starship’s orbital test flight.