San Francisco, March 19
Long awaited, SpaceX Starship vehicle could launch on its first-ever orbital test flight by the end of April this year, according to CEO Elon Musk.
However, the first flight depends on licence approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
"SpaceX will be ready to launch Starship in a few weeks, then launch timing depends on FAA licence approval," Musk wrote on Twitter.
"Assuming that takes a few weeks, the first launch attempt will be near the end of the third week of April," he added.
Starship consists of a giant first-stage booster called Super Heavy and a 50 metres upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship. Both stainless-steel vehicles are designed to be fully and rapidly reusable, and both are powered by SpaceX's next-gen Raptor engine -- 33 for Super Heavy and six for Starship.
Musk said recently that there is only a 50 per cent chance that the first-ever orbital mission of SpaceX's huge Starship vehicle will be a success.
But he also stressed that SpaceX is building multiple Starship vehicles at the South Texas site. These will be launched in relatively quick succession over the coming months, and there's about an 80 per cent chance one of them will reach orbit this year.
"So I think we've got, hopefully, about an 80 per cent chance of reaching orbit this year," Musk said during an interview at the Morgan Stanley Conference.
"It'll probably take us a couple more years to achieve full and rapid reusability." The giant, stainless-steel vehicle will be the most powerful rocket ever to fly, featuring about 2.5 times more thrust at liftoff than NASA's iconic Saturn V, Space.com reported Musk as saying at the conference.
SpaceX is developing Starship to get people and cargo to the Moon and Mars, and perform a variety of other spaceflight tasks.
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