The first orbital test flight of SpaceX’s Starship vehicle will not lift off in August.
SpaceX is aiming for a six-month window that opens on September 1 for the highly anticipated mission, according to a radio spectrum license application (opens in a new tab) that the company has filed with the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
This license was granted on Wednesday August 10, according to the Twitter account FCC space licenses (opens in a new tab), who keeps an eye on these things. But this approval is not the last regulatory hurdle that Spatialship must clear on the way to the launch pad.
Pictures: SpaceX lifts a massive Super Heavy rocket onto a launch pad
“Reminder, this is not the same as a launch license. This is a specific radio license for test vehicles and does not indicate a change in status. Please do not make a YouTube video or to write a 20,000 [word article] about it,” wrote FCC Space Licenses, which is not a US government account. another wednesday tweet (opens in a new tab). (This article is only about 400 words, so hopefully it’s still within limits.)
SpaceX apparently still hasn’t received a launch license for the Starship orbital test flight, which will take off from the company’s Starbase facility in South Texas. Launch licenses are the responsibility of the United States Federal Aviation Administration, which recently entered into a long EA Starship’s activities on the site.
Starship consists of a giant first-stage booster called Super Heavy and a 165-foot-tall (50-meter) spacecraft called Starship. Both are designed to be fully reusable, and both will be powered by SpaceX’s next-gen Raptor engines – 33 for Super Heavy and six for Starship.
The duo that will fly the next orbital mission are Booster 7 and Ship 24. SpaceX has begun preparing the two prototypes for the task; for example, the company performed “static fire” engine tests with both vehicles on Tuesday, August 9 at Starbase.
Booster 7 ignited just one of its 33 engines on Tuesday, and Ship 24 ignited two of its six Raptors. So there’s a lot of work to do before SpaceX clears the duo for an orbital flight – meaning the mission was never likely to lift off in August, even though all the paperwork was already in order.
A high-profile launch is scheduled for this month, however: NASA is currently targeting August 29 for liftoff from Artemis 1, the first mission of its Artemis lunar exploration program. Artemis 1 will use a Space Launch System rocket to send an uncrewed Orion capsule on a roughly six-week mission to lunar orbit and back.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low (opens in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in a new tab). Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in a new tab) Or on Facebook (opens in a new tab).