Starbase in Texas with a starship piled atop a Super Heavy booster. (Credit: Jim Watson/Getty Images/AFP) According to a NASA official, SpaceX may be prepared for the maiden orbital flight of its Starship rocket by December.

The final FAA permission is one of the remaining obstacles, according to Mark Kirasich, NASA’s deputy associate administrator for the Artemis Campaign Development, who spoke to an agency panel this week. However, if it goes forward, the mission will be the first time the entire system is tested.

According to SpaceX, the Starship spaceship and Super Heavy launch vehicle “represent a fully reusable transportation system designed to deliver both personnel and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond in the world’s most powerful launch vehicle.”

On the way to space, though, there was a lot of trial and error. A prototype crashed and exploded in flames in March 2021. After the FAA stated that it needed additional time to finish an environmental study of the spacecraft, a Starship launch was postponed by December 2021.

The FAA required SpaceX to implement more than 75 procedures in order for it to receive a launch license even if that review was SpaceNews.com reports (Opens in a new window) in July after being finished (Opens in a new window) in June. According to Kirasich this week, the licensing process “is still ahead of us.” According to SpaceNews.com, SpaceX has only tested up to seven Raptor engines at a time, but it still needs to perform a static-fire test of all 33 Raptor engines in the Super Heavy booster.

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Starship is anticipated to take off from SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas once it has been given the all-clear. Three minutes into the mission, the launcher will separate, splashing down in the Gulf of Mexico as the spacecraft enters orbit. After reentering the atmosphere, the spacecraft will crash in the ocean close to Hawaii.

The combined height and diameter of Starship, Super Heavy, and the payload they both haul is more than 394 feet. It should be able to transport “in excess of 100 metric tons to Earth orbit” in total.

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