On Friday, April 14, 2023, SpaceX received a Launch License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for the Starship Rocket to take off from Starbase, South Texas.
The company had been waiting anxiously for this approval, which is the final regulatory step needed to clear the way for the largest rocket ever built to fly. The FAA evaluated SpaceX’s compliance with safety, environmental, policy, payload, airspace integration, and financial responsibility requirements, and found that the company had met all of them.
The license is valid for five years, and the company is expected to proceed with a launch attempt on Monday, April 17, after a final readiness review over the weekend.
Launch Date and Flight Plan
SpaceX has a 150-minutes launch window scheduled to open on Monday, April 17, at 7:00 am Local (12:00 UTC), with backup opportunities on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The launch is called “integrated flight test” and it’s the first time the massive Super Heavy rocket and the Starship upper stage will fly together. The Super Heavy rocket will boost Starship toward Space, and after separation, attempt to make a controlled splash down into the Gulf of Mexico, about 30 to 35 km off the coast of Texas.
Targeting as soon as Monday, April 17 for the first flight test of a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy rocket from Starbase in Texas → https://t.co/bJFjLCiTbK pic.twitter.com/Ry25Uuvknh— SpaceX (@SpaceX) April 14, 2023
Meanwhile, the Starship vehicle will attempt to ascend to an altitude of 235 km and become “nearly orbital”. Starship’s engines will shut down at 9 minutes and 20 seconds into the flight, after which the vehicle will coast for more than an hour before entering Earth’s atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean.
It will not complete a full orbit and, for this flight, Starship will not reignite its engines upon atmospheric reentry, nor attempt to make a controlled reentry into the ocean. It’s instead expected to make a high-velocity splashdown about 225 km north of the Hawaiian island of Oahu.
Environmental Impact and Safety Measures
SpaceX has been waiting Federal Approval for several years to launch the massive Super Heavy rocket from Texas. The FAA required the company to undertake more than 75 actions to protect the lands and wildlife around the Boca Chica facility, after completing an environmental assessment in June 2022.
Super Heavy will be the largest and most powerful rocket to ever launch from Earth. However, SpaceX has taken an experimental approach for those booster and Starship’s development, so it is very far from a certainty that this flight will proceed without incident.
Essentially, the goal for this flight is to gather data about the performance of both the first-stage booster and Starship upper stage to begin recovery attempts on future flights.
Godspeed and Good Luck 🍀to the SpaceX Teams!