SpaceX Says Starship Approval “Around The Corner” As It Launches NASA Cargo Mission

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NASA and SpaceX have launched the agency’s latest cargo supply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch is part of the CRS-29 mission and it sent thousands of pounds of cargo to the ISS. It marks SpaceX’s 81st launch of the year, leaving the firm tantalizingly close to its aim of launching 100 missions to space in 2023. SpaceX has rapidly scaled up its payload cadence as of late, courtesy of its Starlink satellite internet constellation.

At the same time, the firm is also building its Starship rocket in Texas, and right now, it is waiting for regulatory approval for the second Starship test flight. A highly anticipated event, SpaceX believes that approval for the second Starship launch is ‘around the corner’ as it installs flight termination systems on the world’s largest rocket before what many believe will be a launch attempt in mid November.

NASA Launches Laser Communications Module On SpaceX CRS-29 Mission For ISS Use

SpaceX’s booster for today’s flight is a new rocket that flew for the second time earlier today, and its inaugural flight was also for a NASA mission through the Crew-7 ISS launch in August. Before every mission, SpaceX evaluates and tests its rockets and ensures that spacecraft are ready to meet launch conditions. This Falcon 9 rocket was also hot fired before today’s launch, and the CRS-29 launch date slipped after SpaceX discovered valve problems on the Cargo Dragon spacecraft.

The launch also marked a new milestone for the Dragon spacecraft, as it marked the most Dragon flights in a calendar year. SpaceX’s only operational spaceship has flown to space six times these year and two of these have been astronaut flights. Overall, SpaceX has reused the Dragon spacecraft 21 times. The CRS-29 mission is carrying 6,500 pounds of cargo, and on the spacecraft are communications, imaging and other experiments.

SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon waits for liftoff at the Kennedy Space Center for the CRS-29 mission. Image: NASA

Before today’s launch, SpaceX’s regular launch presenter, Jessie Anderson, also shared details about its second Starship test flight attempt. According to her, SpaceX will launch Starship with a new stage separation and engine control system after its first flight attempt in April failed to reach orbit. She added that the second flight could launch “as soon as mid November pending regulatory approval which is just around the corner.”

For regulatory approval, SpaceX is working with the FAA and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to evaluate its Starship rocket and launch site upgrades.

Another historic payload on the CRS-29 mission is 500 grams of heirloom seeds of the Choctaw Nation. These seeds are an important part of Choctaw history as they mark the tribe’s journey from Mississippi to Oklahoma. After they return to Earth, they will be planted side by side with seeds that have never left the atmosphere to observe any differences. Some plants that the seeds belong to are flour corn that can grow up to 20 feet tall, sweet potato squash, Smith peas and leafy plants.

After it landed in Landing Zone 1, the Falcon 9 booster for today’s launch marked the 243rd recovery of an orbital class rocket. The land landing was the first time a CRS booster did not land on a SpaceX droneship. SpaceX has now reflown 214 Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy first stages and the firm also plans to fly another mission on Saturday. This will be SpaceX’s Transporter 9 mission, marking the 12th flight of the Falcon 9 booster that has previously flown six Starlink missions and reconnaissance satellites.

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