SpaceX Test Launches Starship As FAA Considers Launch License

View from the launch tower as SpaceX places the Starship 20 prototype on the Super Heavy Rocket Booster 4 on August 6, 2021.

@elonmusk on Twitter

Elon Musk’s SpaceX completed two test engine launches on its Starship 20 prototype on Thursday as the company prepares for its first orbital rocket launch while the Federal Aviation Administration is reviewing a license request.

SpaceX installed a Raptor vacuum engine – essentially a version of the engine optimized for use in space – and launched it for the first time when connected to a Starship rocket. The rocket at the company’s facility in South Texas was brought to a standstill during the test in a process known as static fire. The engine started for just a few seconds.

Later that evening, SpaceX conducted a second short static fire test. This time he used two engines: a standard or “sea level optimized” Raptor engine and a vacuum engine.

Musk explained in a series of tweets that SpaceX is continuing to work on improving its Raptor engines. He said the Raptor “is currently ~ 270 bar but is working on upgrades to get it over 300 bar.” Musk referred to the pressure in the engine chamber, which effectively measures its performance.

Starship is a huge next-generation rocket that SpaceX is developing to launch cargo and people on flights to the Moon and Mars. The company is testing prototypes at a plant in South Texas and has completed several short test flights.

Musk, in another tweet on Friday, said Starship 20 will be “ready for its first orbital launch attempt” in November, “awaiting regulatory approval.”

SpaceX wants Starship to be fully reusable so that both the rocket and its booster can land after launch so they can be rebuilt for future flights. SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets are partially reusable. The company can land and re-launch boosters on a regular basis, but not the top or stage of the rocket.

Earlier this week, Musk stressed that “full and rapid reuse is the holy grail of orbital rocketry.” He was responding to a report that the small rocket company Rocket Lab is making headway in rebuilding and reusing its electronic vehicles.

Current FAA Environmental Review

SpaceX is releasing Super Heavy Booster 4 in preparation for the spacecraft’s first launch into orbit.

Elon Musk

SpaceX’s The next important step in testing Starship is launching into orbit. First, a company needs a launch license from the FAA to accomplish its mission.

The FAA is conducting an environmental assessment of SpaceX facilities and operations in Boca Chica, Texas. Earlier this week, he held two public virtual hearings for members of the public to express their views on the process. SpaceX has rapidly expanded its facility, which it calls Starbase, since development of the Starship began in earnest in early 2019.

The public hearings showed a wide range of testimonies, with 120 speakers in total. The commentators included those who genuinely supported Musk and the Starship project, and many made calls from other states. The criticism came from representatives of local environmental groups.

Fewer than half of commentators said they live close to SpaceX facilities. The closing commentary on the first hearing was made by Brownsville City Commissioner Jessica Tetro, who said she has worked with SpaceX for the past 10 years and noted that the company employs more than 2,000 people in the region.

“I am not just asking you, I am asking you to give them this permission. Here in the Brownsville area, so many people who have benefited from this project are coming to our area, ”Tetro said.

The FAA is in the fourth of eight steps in its review.

He will evaluate the public comments on his draft assessment, include the feedback in his assessment, and publish the final assessment. The FAA will then decide whether to issue a “Minor Impact Statement” (FONSI) or notify the initiation of a more in-depth review known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The latter will pause further Starship launches pending the completion of the review.

SpaceX Starship’s offer to the FAA includes up to 20 suborbital launches per year and up to 5 orbital launches per year.

Morgan Stanley, following CNBC’s announcement that SpaceX had reached a $ 100 billion valuation, found in a survey of institutional investors and industry experts that Musk’s space company was expected to become even more valuable than Tesla. The automaker Musk currently has a market value of more than eight times the SpaceX estimate.

“Investors are beginning to appreciate the potentially wide range of use cases for SpaceX’s reusable launch architecture in communications, transportation, Earth observation and other space-related areas,” Morgan Stanley analyst Adam Jonas wrote Tuesday.

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