SpaceX’s Starship might finally take to the sky. The launch vehicle is the tallest and most powerful rocket ever built, even bigger than NASA’s massive Space Launch System that took Artemis I to the Moon. It's also the first to be designed for complete reuse. All going well, its inaugural flight will take place next week.
Back in mid-March, CEO Elon Musk suggested a tentative date of the third week of April for the first test launch of Starship as SpaceX was still waiting for license approval to launch from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
However, Starship was recently seen on its launchpad and it seems that most of the FAA evaluation is completed, although some environmental issues are still yet to be concluded. If sorted soon, the launch could happen next Monday, April 10, or the day after, as first reported by Ars Technica's Eric Berger, who notes that it appears NASA has reserved the use of its high-altitude WB-57 aircraft to track the rocket's progress. NASA has a big interest in Starship.
If all goes well, it's likely Starship will be the rocket that will take astronauts in the Artemis program from lunar orbit down to the surface of the Moon and back. It has the capability to be fueled in orbit before moving from low-Earth orbit to the Moon, and maybe one day even Mars. It can move crew and cargo into orbit.
Potentially, Starship could also be used to do point-to-point suborbital Earth transportation. Those are flights from two different places on the planet. For example, the longest continuous flight, from Singapore to New York, takes almost 19 hours. Starship might be able to do it in about one hour.
SpaceX also envisions the vehicle as a way to bring more Starlink satellites to orbit, expanding this megaconstellation even more. Starlink is at the center of many controversies as the number of satellites is affecting professional astronomy and they contribute to the pollution of the natural night sky. Musk plans to have at least 12,000 Starlink satellites in orbit, likely outnumbering non-Starlink satellites five to one.
Official word on the launch of Starship will probably come in the next few days, but it seems almost certain that it will happen this month.
[H/T: Ars Technica]