SpaceX is now expecting to conduct their first Starship orbital test flight in early December, according to Mark Kirasich, a senior NASA official.
Kirasich provided the new timeline during a live-streamed NASA Advisory Council meeting on Monday, sharing details on what is still needed for SpaceX to be able to stick to this latest target.
According to Kirasich, who oversees development of the NASA’s Artemis program which will use Starship to land astronauts on the moon, the aerospace company still needs to some propellant system testing, additional static fire tests, and conduct “wet dress rehearsals.” FAA licensing is also still being processed.
During the orbital test flight Starship will be launched atop a Super Heavy Booster complete with 33 Raptor 2 engines from Boca Chica, Texas. That booster will return to Earth, although SpaceX is not expected to attempt to retrieve it on this first test flight.
Starship would then orbit the Earth before splashing down off the coast of Hawaii, according to the original flight plan filed last year.
The first orbital test flight is a pivotal moment for SpaceX and their Starship program.
Starship will be responsible for deploying SpaceX’s second generation Starlink satellites that will also provide cellular service in areas without current coverage through a partnership with T-Mobile.
Starship will also be used to deliver astronauts to the moon as part of the Artemis program in 2025. SpaceX will first conduct an unmanned landing on the moon.
While we wait for Starship’s first orbital test flight, SpaceX is planning to launch Falcon Heavy on Tuesday morning for the first time in three years.