SpaceX Starship Should Secure Launch Approval By Friday Says Elon Musk

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According to a fresh X post by its chief Elon Musk, SpaceX’s Starship rocket is on track to receive regulatory approval for a Friday launch. The highly anticipated second Starship flight will come seven months after the first test attempt in May that saw Starship successfully clear the launch pad but fail at the crucial stage of stage separation. The Starship program is crucial for SpaceX’s future, as not only does a multi billion dollar NASA contract for a lunar lander depend on the rocket, but SpaceX’s second generation Starlink satellites are also designed to utilize its super heavy lift capabilities to build out the second stage of the world’s largest satellite internet constellation.

SpaceX On Track To Launch Starship On Friday, November 17th Says Musk

October and November have proved to be quite important for the Starship program after SpaceX rapidly recovered from the setbacks from the first test flight. Since May, the firm has built a brand new water deluge system at the launch pad to absorb the force of the 33 Raptor 2 engines on Starship. At the same time, it has also upgraded Starship by adding a new engine control system and a hot staging interstage.

These upgrades impacted SpaceX’s launch clearance from the FAA, and while the agency was quick to finish Starship’s safety review, the main bottleneck for the second test flight was the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The Starship launchpad is built on the picturesque Boca Chica beach, and the water deluge system is designed to inject thousands of gallons of water into the surroundings in order to cool the pad and prevent damage.

The FWS is evaluating this deluge system, and the timelines the government body is allowed to operate in can lead to an approval stretching out to 2024. However, given Musk’s latest statements, it appears that this might not be the case, with Starship being able to launch as soon as later this week on Friday.

Taking to X (formerly Twitter), the SpaceX chief shared that he was informed earlier today that the Starship launch should secure regulatory approval to launch on Friday. His statement comes after SpaceX’s Jessie Anderson shared during a NASA live stream that Starship approval was ‘around the corner’ and a later statement outlined that the rocket could launch as soon as on November 17th.

The Friday launch attempt, should SpaceX secure regulatory approval, will come after multiple tests that have been taking place in Texas since late October. As part of its preparation, SpaceX fully loaded the rocket with its fuel and oxidizer, tested its engine pumps and fired up the water deluge system multiple times.

Recent tests at the launch pad have included several stacks and de-stacks of the rocket as well. Starship is made of the Super Heavy first stage booster and the second stage Starship. As opposed to its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX has designed the rocket to enable it to stack and de-stack the second-stage rocket right at the launch pad. This will allow the firm to rapidly reuse the rocket, with the operational Starship seeing the booster land at the site only to be quickly re-stacked and refueled for rapid reusability.

A key test objective for the planned Friday launch will be successful stage separation. Before the April test flight, SpaceX was eager to assert that Starship simply clearing the pad would make its test a success. However, a seven-month gap between the first and second flights, which Musk had hoped would be a two-month gap, has increased the stakes. Should the test be successful, some SpaceX filings with regulatory bodies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) indicate that the third Starship flight could take place within months. This will depend on the nature of the FAA-approved launch license since the April test flight license limited SpaceX to a single launch only.

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