SpaceX Targeting Starship Orbital Flight Test In March

Credit: SpaceX

Following a tanking test of the Starship/Super Heavy launch system and pending a successful static engine firing, SpaceX is targeting the first orbital flight test of its new super heavy-lift space transportation system for March. 

“If remaining tests go well, we will attempt a Starship launch next month,” SpaceX founder, CEO and chief engineer Elon Musk wrote on Twitter on Feb. 4. 

Starship is a two-stage, Mars-class transport system in development at SpaceX’s privately owned Starbase spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas. With twice the thrust of NASA’s Saturn V and the Space Launch System Moon rockets, Starship/Super Heavy is poised to become the most powerful launch system ever built.

SpaceX-designed and manufactured Raptor engines, fueled by liquid oxygen and liquid methane, power both the Starship upper stage and the Super Heavy booster. Both stages are designed to be reused. 

For the orbital flight test, the Super Heavy booster is designed to separate about 2 min. after liftoff, turn around and attempt a soft landing in the Gulf of Mexico about 20 mi. off the coast of Texas. 

The Starship upper stage will continue flying, passing over the Straits of Florida, for a 90-min. flight that is expected to end with a soft landing in the Pacific Ocean about 60 mi. northwest of Kauai, Hawaii. 

SpaceX completed a full wet dress rehearsal on Jan. 24, fueling the Starship and the Super Heavy booster with more than 10 million gal. of liquid oxygen and liquid methane. A static-fire of Super Heavy’s 33 Raptor engines is expected later this month. 

Irene Klotz

Irene Klotz is Senior Space Editor for Aviation Week, based in Cape Canaveral. Before joining Aviation Week in 2017, Irene spent 25 years as a wire service reporter covering human and robotic spaceflight, commercial space, astronomy, science and technology for Reuters and United Press International.