SpaceX has finally got authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct suborbital missions with its Starship spacecraft prototype.
The space company has been hard at work preparing the prototype for short-duration, low-altitude, static engine fire, and controlled fire tests. Here are the latest details.
SpaceX’s Starship Spacecraft Prototype is Ready to Fly
Officially, the FAA has approved SpaceX to carry what it terms “reusable launch vehicle” missions. The Starship prototype is now allowed to lift off from and land back at the launch platform SpaceX operates in Boca Chica.
The space company has already done similar tests. It previously utilized its Starhopper prototype – smaller than Starship, and much more rudimentary in design. It was only used to demonstrate the capabilities of the Raptor engine that SpaceX will utilize to fuel Starship, but only for a short hop test.
Since that launch last year, the space company has developed many versions of a full-scale prototype of Starship. So far, it hasn’t gotten back to the point where it’s actively operating any of those. There were, however, many iterations of the recent prototype that have failed during pressure testing. The SN4 was the only one that passed the pressure and the static fire tests.
Now, SpaceX plans to launch the Starship prototype for a short “hop” flight, such as the one done by Starhopper, with a maximum altitude of approximately 500 feet. The upcoming model will be equipped with more Raptor engines if the flight turns out to be successful. It will also try a high-altitude test liftoff.
The space company is quickly developing a newer variant of Starship even as it continues with testing the built prototypes, to reduce the total period of its building. After all, SpaceX is one of the three space companies that received a contract award from NASA to develop and build a crewed lander for a Moon mission by 2024.