Elon Musk responding to a Twitter query about the first test of the rocket booster built to propel the Mars-bound Starship spacecraft into orbit, said that it would occur early next week.
The SpaceX CEO wrote, “Probably Monday” in answer to a tweet from space blogger and YouTuber Everyday Astronaut.
The static fire test will be a huge step forward for SpaceX’s efforts to build a rocket that can transport crew and cargo around the Solar System.
Lending credibility to this timeline are notices for closure of roads surrounding SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, for Monday between 12pm and 10pm. Backup dates for the testing are also set for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Earlier in May, the spaceship program successfully tested the Starship SN15 prototype, which achieved a high-altitude launch and landing. This was the first time that the Starship space venture achieved this without exploding.
SpaceX has launched several Starship prototypes in short- and high-altitude test flights at its Boca Chica, Texas, launch facilities. Though the experiments, especially the high altitude testing, have not been successful and have been destroyed in landing-phase explosions.
The next stage involves constructing a huge launch tower to support a Starship craft on top of a Super Heavy Booster called Booster 4, which will launch after ground testing of Booster 3 is completed. The 230-foot-tall (70 meters) Super Heavy is the first stage of SpaceX’s fully reusable starship transportation system.
The orbital flight will take the Starship SN20 craft from Texas to a landing site just off the coast of Hawaii following a 90-minute flight. Musk hopes that the launch will take place in August after all the mandatory regulations are met.
An environmental review of the launch tower by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is awaited. An FAA spokesperson said that it had not been informed of the construction and that “the company is building the tower at its own risk”. The tower might have to be disassembled if required.
SpaceX’s private Starship development will likely continue. After securing a multi-billion dollar deal with Nasa earlier this year to take astronauts to the Moon, SpaceX is on a tight schedule to deliver a working Starship by 2024.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has ambitious plans to make humanity a spacefaring species. He also plans to use the Starship transporter for inter-city travel anywhere in the world under one hour in the next 10 years.
SpaceX’s future plans, according to Musk, are for the Starship launch systems to take over all the transport needs of the company. Other plans on the anvil include; satellite launches, missions for space junk clean-ups, and of course, ferry people to space, and around the earth.