The SpaceX rocket, scheduled to bring humans back to the moon, is expected to make its first orbital flight in January 2022.
Speaking in a video interview at the fall meeting of the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, CEO Elon Musk said SpaceX was scheduled to conduct some tests in December, before Starship’s first orbital flight in January. This was announced by Business Insider.
The largest launch vehicle ever built, SpaceX’s Starship consists of two parts, a first-stage accelerator called the Super Heavy, and the actual spacecraft, which gives it the name Starship. Both components are powered by SpaceX’s Raptor engines, but differ in capacity. When it is finally ready, the Super Heavy is expected to have 33 Raptor engines, while the spacecraft will have only six. Both components are designed for multiple use and are expected to play an important role in taking humanity to the moon, Mars and even beyond, Space reported.
Musk, known for setting ambitious deadlines, had first set a goal for Starship’s the first trip in 2019. When that did not happen, the date was moved to 2021. However, interest in the vehicle only intensified when earlier this year NASA announced it as a transporter for the moon’s crew with a crew for 2024. Although NASA postponed the landing of the moon with another year, Starship seems to be making decent progress.
In May, Starship serial number 15 (SN15) completed a high-altitude test powered by only three Raptor engines and reached a maximum altitude of about six miles (10 km). The current version of the SN20, assembled and tested at the SpaceX facility in Texas, has the entire set of six engines for the spacecraft and an almost complete set of 29 Super Heavy Raptor engines. After takeoff, the booster will fall back into the Gulf of Mexico, but SN20 will orbit the Earth once and then return to the Pacific Ocean, Space.com reported.
This is the plan. As Musk himself said during the conversation, there are many risks associated with the first launch and he does not expect it to be successful. However, the company plans to make a dozen or more orbital fields in the calendar year and is confident that it will reach orbit in 2022, Business Insider reported.
Musk expects Starship to be an important player sending humanity to the moon, Mars and beyond, but suggests that we will need thousands of starships to achieve this goal. SpaceX is already making progress in this direction, producing many Raptor and Starships engines at its McGregor facility in Texas, Musk said during his interaction.