SpaceX has not made a new launch for the past 9 months, but we finally get to see a Starship prototype exit the SpaceX factory in Boca Chica, Texas. However, the launch is in the hopes of kicking off qualification testing in the near future.
Reports suggest that SpaceX still needs regulatory approval to launch the fully stacked system. The last time SpaceX rolled a new and functional Starship prototype from the factory to the test stand was on August 13th, 2021, back when Starship S20 was transported back to the pad for the second time that month.
SpaceX rolls out a new prototype; says report
It looks like only now, in May 2022, will SpaceX finally receive the necessary permissions for a limited orbital test flight campaign in the near future. The launch of prototype S24 could indicate that SpaceX is on schedule to launch a fully stacked Starship rocket; as Musk, the company’s founder and CEO, has promised, says Teslarati.
At the moment, Musk’s prediction that SpaceX will attempt 12 Starship launches in 2022 seems unduly optimistic, but stranger things have happened. A starship is a spacecraft that can transport freight and passengers to destinations such as: the Earth’s orbit, the Moon, and Mars. Musk has referred to it as a “generalized transport mechanism for the broader solar system,” but a NASA contract requires Musk to demonstrate that the vehicle is capable of landing astronauts on the Moon.
The space agency wants to put astronauts on the lunar surface by 2025, which means SpaceX needs to get cracking; a fully stacked Starship rocket has yet to leave the ground. The company’s sudden arrival of SpaceX Starship prototype S24 is thus a relieving indication.
The unfinished unit was brought to a testing area from the SpaceX factory in Boca Chica yesterday. The new prototype was rolled out in a video broadcast to NASASpaceflight’s YouTube page; showing numerous clear views of the behemoth.
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Some basic qualification tests, such as pressure and cryogenic proof tests, will be required for the SpaceX prototype. S24 will subsequently be transferred to Suborbital Pad A for additional examination if everything goes well.
SpaceX needs an Environmental review
SpaceX’s prototype could stay on the pad or be sent back to the factory for further work, depending on how things go. The prototype could be the upper stage that sits atop Booster 7, which is being developed at the Boca Chica plant as well. According to NASASpaceFlight, the Raptor is about to be installed on the Super Heavy rocket.
If SpaceX wants to perform its orbital test it will require an environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration. The delivery of which is expected on May 31. The review can go either way and if it does; the FAA could come back with a list of easily resolvable recommendations for SpaceX to follow.