The spacecraft’s orbital launch date could be as May 2022, reveals Elon Musk

SpaceX enjoyed it many wins in recent years. In addition to the successful glide tests and landing of several Starship prototypes, the first Super Heavy boosters were rolled out, the new Raptor vacuum engines were tested and the “Mechazilla” launch tower was assembled in Boca Chica, Texas. It has also unveiled the first fully-equipped orbital test vehicle (SN20), stacked with a first-stage booster on its launch pad for the first time.

Given the tremendous progress, few were surprised when Musk announced that the first orbital flight test could take place as early as January 2022. Unfortunately, that appointment had to be postponed to an environmental review and the usual bureaucratic chatter. However, Musk recently announced on Twitter that given his venture’s success with the new Raptor engines, he may be ready to conduct the long-awaited orbital test flight this May.

When is Starship’s orbital launch date?

The tweet was posted on Monday, March 21st, in response to a story by Michael Sheetz, a space reporter at CNBC. Sheetz cited a recent report (by Quilty Analytics) that showed how Russia’s decision to sever ties with the international space industry (in response to sanctions) would affect the US space sector. This report shows that SpaceX will be “the clear winner” as the lack of Russian launch services means more deals will come their way.

According to Sheetz, this is illustrated by the recent announcement that OneWeb – a Starlink competitor – has canceled its launch agreement with Roscosmos and signed a deal with SpaceX. Musk responded via Twitter, saying he doesn’t expect a dramatic increase in launch services for his company, which is already launching two-thirds of the world’s satellites.

Under their original plans, Musk said SpaceX would capture 65% of the market share for launch services. The cessation of Russian launch services should increase that figure to 70%, only slightly higher. He added that this would not affect the development of the spacecraft, which could be ready for its long-awaited orbital test flight in May (at the earliest). This estimate is largely based on production of the new Raptor 2 engine.

The Raptor 2 is an updated version of the Raptor 1 and is simpler and more powerful than the original. Production began in December 2021 at SpaceX’s new engine development facility near McGregor, Texas. At the annual Starship Update in February, Musk discussed the Raptor 2’s capabilities, which included 510,000 pounds of thrust at sea level. Based on their current production rates (seven per week as of March), Musk estimates they will have 39 engines ready by April.

Equipping one is enough Very difficult Booster based on 29 Raptor engines optimized for sea level and one spaceship, which relies on three sea-level optimized and three vacuum-optimized motors. Add a few weeks to integrate them into the spacecraft, Musk added, and the entire system shouldn’t be ready to fly until May at the earliest. But given Musk’s tendency to provide optimistic flight schedules, the flight could happen sometime this summer.

The spaceship orbital launch, explained

spaceship engine room, shows three Raptor enginesSpaceX

According to the flight plan filed with the FAA in May 2021, the orbital test flight will be fully stacked spaceship and Very difficult Take off together and separate 170 seconds into flight. The booster will then perform a partial return and gently inflate approximately 32 km (20 miles) offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. the spaceship will then reach an altitude of 200 km (~125 miles) above sea level before performing a targeted gentle splashdown approximately 100 km (62 miles) off the coast of the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

If this test flight goes as planned, SpaceX will be ready to launch its first commercial flights, including a moon flyby planned for 2023 (the #dearMoon project). As part of NASA’s Artemis program, the spacecraft was also selected to land astronauts on the moon for the first time since the Apollo era. This will be the Artemis III mission, currently scheduled for sometime in 2025.

Additionally, the Starship and Super Heavy launch systems are an integral part of SpaceX’s long-term goal of making regular trips to the Moon and Mars and establishing a permanent human presence there. As always, things may not happen according to the original timeline. But they come together well!

Be sure to check out this latest animation of the spaceship Reaching Mars, courtesy of SpaceX:

This article was originally published on universe today by Matt Williams. Read the original article here.

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