SpaceX eyeing 3rd week of April for Starship orbital launch, Elon Musk says

SpaceX eyeing 3rd week of April for Starship orbital launch, Elon Musk says

SpaceX's Starship vehicle sits fully stacked at the company's Starbase facility in South Texas in April 2023, ahead of a planned orbital test flight attempt.

SpaceX’s Starship vehicle sits fully stacked at the company’s Starbase facility in South Texas in April 2023, ahead of a planned orbital test flight attempt.  (Image credit: SpaceX via Twitter)

SpaceX’s huge Starship vehicle could launch on its first-ever orbital test flight by the end of next week, if all goes according to plan.

SpaceX has been gearing up for the pioneering flight for months, and the prep work has accelerated recently. Last week, for example, technicians stacked the spacebound Starship, placing its Ship 24 upper-stage prototype atop its Booster 7 first stage on the orbital launch mount at Starbase, SpaceX’s South Texas facility.

Such activity implies that Starship is in the home stretch, and SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly reinforced that notion via Twitter. He did so again on Monday (April 10), stressing that launch could be less than two weeks away.

“Starship launch trending towards near the end of third week of April,” Musk tweeted on Monday morning (opens in new tab).

Related: SpaceX’s Starship looks amazing stacked for launch in these photos

Musk didn’t give a more specific date range, but he may well be targeting April 20, which is a holiday for cannabis culture. The billionaire entrepreneur likes making 4/20 references and jokes (opens in new tab), and he gave an apparent nod to the possibility of an April 20 launch in a tweet last month (opens in new tab).

SpaceX isn’t entirely in control of the schedule, however: The company is still waiting on an orbital launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. So you probably shouldn’t book any flights to South Texas just yet.

SpaceX is developing Starship to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and beyond. The enormous vehicle is designed to be fully reusable, a breakthrough that Musk believes will usher in a spaceflight revolution.

Starship’s Super Heavy first stage is powered by 33 of SpaceX’s new Raptor engines, while the upper-stage spacecraft, known as Starship, sports six Raptors. Those 33 first-stage engines will generate about 16.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, meaning Starship will become the most powerful rocket in history when it flies successfully for the first time.

The current record is held by NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) megarocket, which produces about 8.8 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The SLS debuted in November 2022, launching for the first time on NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission.

Starship is also the biggest rocket ever built, standing 394 feet (120 meters) tall when fully stacked. But it’s going to get even bigger, Musk revealed recently.

“Ship will probably stretch by another 10m or so,” he tweeted on Saturday (opens in new tab) (April 8).

Mike Wall is the author of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).

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