Final preparations are underway for the first orbital flight test of the SpaceX Starship orbiter and Super Heavy booster. Several sources have indicated that if all goes as planned, the test flight could be launched as soon as the week of April 17, 2023.
This post will serve as the place for news and information about the upcoming test. As of this writing (2023-04-14 13:00 UTC), this is the status of the milestones which must be checked off before launch.
Information on these milestones will be posted in the comments.
Here is a video from NASASpaceflight (an independent Web site and YouTube channel with no connection to the U.S. space agency) describing the milestones to expect on launch day and the nominal mission plan if all goes well.
An earlier post here, “SpaceX Starship Orbital Flight Test, The Movie”, on 2023-04-02, presented an animation of an early Starship mission. The Orbital Flight Test will not, however, return the Super Heavy booster to be caught at the launch site or deploy Starlink satellites while in space.
These are maps of the maritime exclusion zones for the launch from Boca Chica and the Starship upper stage re-entry and splashdown around 100 km from the Hawaiian island of Kauai. In the launch map at the top, the blue zone is the exclusion for a nominal flight, while the purple area is exclusion due to possible debris from a Really Bad Day. On the splashdown map, the extended aqua zone is where debris could fall from a break-up of the upper stage during re-entry and the small rectangle in the northeast corner is the intended splashdown area if all goes as planned.
A road closure notice of Texas state highway 4 and Boca Chica Beach has been announced “due to anticipated test launch activities for SpaceX. Closure time is 05:00 to 19:00 UTC for the prime date of 2023-04-17 and alternates of the 18th and 19th.
This is an excerpt from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Control System Command Center advisory of 2023-04-08 alerting control centres of coming restrictions for Boca Chica on 2023-04-17.
On 2023-04-14 at 10:44 UTC, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued the following NOTAM FDC 3/1793 announcing airspace closure around the Boca Chica launch site for 2023-04-17 from 12:00 to 15:05 UTC “From the surface up to Unlimited”. This announcement does not imply the issuance of a launch license by the FAA—we’re still waiting for that.
Here is how this is announced to subscribers to the NOTAM system:
While everybody waits to see if the FAA will issue the launch license today, which multiple sources reported was expected on April 13 or 14 2023, we have this report that the delay may about jumping a shark.
This Order modifies License No. VOL 23-129 issued concurrently by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation, authorizing Space Exploration Technologies, Corp. to conduct launch of its Starship-Super Heavy vehicle as identified in the license application; and prescribes as conditions to License No. VOL 23-129 certain requirements applicable to launch.
i. Using the Starship-Super Heavy vehicle.
ii. From SpaceX Boca Chica Launch Complex, Boca Chica, Texas.
iii. To Gulf of Mexico and Pacific Ocean locations specified in its application.
iv. For the first flight only, unless this license is modified to remove this term.
License No. VOL 23-129 terminates five (5) years from April 14, 2023.
So it takes about as long to generate the bureaucratic paperwork for a launch permit as it does to develop & build the hardware. And we wonder why the US can no longer make the shoes on our feet or the shirts on our backs?
I agree that the term “US” can be interpreted in different ways. An empty land is merely an empty land – it is the people who live on that territory who make the difference. And one of the differences is how those people chose to organize their efforts. There was a time when the people who lived in the US were able through their political systems to build the Erie Canal, the transcontinental railroads, the interstate highway system. But that was then, and this is now.
My intuition regarding SpaceX Starship bellyflop – it will submerge and bounce up (like a glass bottle dropped in a bathtub). Steel will be deformed dampening the impact (dissipating energy), but buoyancy will prevail. Tuesday 4/18 at 2:05 PM Central Time.