Starship prototypes can be seen stacked on top of the Super Heavy booster at the company’s launch facility near Brownsville, Texas.
The Federal Aviation Administration has granted Elon Musk’s SpaceX a Starship launch permit, a crucial final regulatory step that will allow the company to attempt to launch its towering rocket in orbit for the first time.
“After a comprehensive permit evaluation process, the FAA determined that SpaceX met all safety, environmental, policy, payload, airspace integration and financial responsibility requirements. The permit is valid for five years,” the FAA said in a statement .
SpaceX, which now has permission from the FAA, aims to launch Starship as soon as Monday from a private facility in Texas on the Gulf Coast.
“SpaceX aims to conduct the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket from Starbase, Texas as early as Monday, April 17th. The 150-minute test window will begin at 7:00AM ET ,” SpaceX said in a statement. statement.
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The company recently stacked Starship Prototype 24 on Super Heavy booster Prototype 7 in preparation for launch. Together they stand nearly 400 feet tall. SpaceX completed a test launch of its Super Heavy booster, which has 33 Raptor engines on its underside, in February, one of the final technical steps of the launch.
SpaceX has been conducting the first orbital flight test of its Starship rocket for years, and company leadership emphasized the experimental nature of the launch. While SpaceX had hoped to conduct its first orbital Starship launch as early as summer 2021, progress delays and regulatory approvals pushed back that timeline.
The rocket will blast off from SpaceX’s development facility near Brownsville, Texas, before heading east across the Gulf of Mexico, according to a 2021 document disclosing the flight plan. The ultimate goal of the mission is to reach orbit, with the rocket aiming to orbit Earth for the majority of its time and land in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
Starship, designed to transport cargo and people beyond Earth, is critical to NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the moon. SpaceX won nearly $3 billion in contracts from the space agency in 2021 to use Starship as a crewed lunar lander.