SpaceX via Flickr
T-Minus 33 Days

SpaceX President Says Orbital Starship Launch Is “Shooting for July”

byDan Robitzski

"I am hoping we make it, but we all know this is difficult."

Final Countdown

In a surprise announcement, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said that the company could attempt the first orbital flight of its Starship spacecraft as soon as July — meaning, for those keeping score, the month that starts in just three days.

Shotwell made the announcement at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference on Friday, according to SpaceNews, laying out an ambitious plan for the next Starship prototype. There’s a chance, of course, that Shotwell’s announcement was another one of the unrealistically-ambitious timelines that Elon Musk-run companies are wont to make. There are plenty of hurdles left to clear before the launch can happen, but SpaceX has a history of moving quickly, so Shotwell’s suggested timeline is certainly within the realm of possibility.

“We are headed for our first orbital attempt in the not-too-distant future. We’re shooting for July,” Shotwell said, according to SpaceNews. “I am hoping we make it, but we all know this is difficult. We are really on the cusp of flying that system, or at least attempting the first orbital flight of that system, in the very near term.”

Flight Plan

SpaceX plans to launch the spacecraft from its facility near Boca Chica, Texas. The Super Heavy booster would then separate and land in the Gulf of Mexico while the Starship itself enters orbit. According to the flight plan SpaceX filed with the Federal Communications Commission, the Starship would then splash down near Kauai, Hawaii after less than one full orbit.

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“We are headed for our first orbital attempt in the not-too-distant future. We’re shooting for July,” Shotwell said, according to SpaceNews. “I am hoping we make it, but we all know this is difficult. We are really on the cusp of flying that system, or at least attempting the first orbital flight of that system, in the very near term.”

Says Who

But Shotwell didn’t mention that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) hasn’t yet issued the launch license that SpaceX needs to proceed, SpaceNews notes. With time ticking down and no updates from the FAA, the July launch gets increasingly unlikely with every passing day.

The holdup is that the FAA is conducting a new environmental assessment for the potential impacts of Super Heavy launches from Boca Chica. SpaceX’s last assessment is from 2014, so it focused on Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets, and it stands to reason that the Super Heavy could have a greater impact on the surrounding area.

Still, Shotwell seems to remain optimistic.

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“I never want to predict dates because we’re still in development, but very soon,” she said at the event.

READ MORE: SpaceX aiming for July for Starship orbital launch despite regulatory reviews [SpaceNews]

More on SpaceX: SpaceX Appears To Be Assembling Its Orbital Starship Booster


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