Thursday, April 18, 2024

SpaceX reveals plan for Starship’s first orbital flight

SpaceX is getting Starship ready for its first orbital flight. The company has submitted a document detailing their plans for the Starship’s first flight into space, a test that will take the spacecraft almost a full orbit around the Earth.

The idea is that the Starship vehicle will be launched from the usual location near Boca Chica, Texas, using the Super Heavy rocket stage. The Booster stage will separate approximately 170 seconds into flight. It will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles (32 km) from the shore, according to a document filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

“The orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits,” the document added. “It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100 km (62 miles) off the northwest coast of Kauai in a soft ocean landing,” after being just over 90 minutes in the air.

Thus, as part of the first orbital flight, Starship will make an almost complete revolution around the Earth.

SpaceX intends to “collect as much data as possible during flight” in order to learn more about the entry dynamics of the Starship and “better understand what the vehicle experiences in a flight regime that is extremely difficult to predict with precision or to reproduce by calculation.”

These orbital plans were filed days after SpaceX’s Starship SN15 rocket prototype successfully performed a high-altitude test flight from SpaceX’s Starbase test site near Boca Chica Village in South Texas on May 5, 2021. Its predecessors had attempted this flight, but all of them ended up in explosions.

The document does not indicate when it is specifically planned to conduct an orbital test flight, but it seems to be to carry out the test sometime before March 1, 2022.