Will Starship launch anytime soon?

Ship 20 and Booster 4 at Starbase, Texas (Credit Richard Angle)

SpaceX has made remarkable progress at Starbase, but will they attempt a launch anytime soon?

The company recently requested a maritime exclusion zone from the U.S. Coast Guard for “rocket launching activities” on August 31, 2023. However, even with all the work being done and testing in progress, it is still highly unlikely that SpaceX would be able to launch Starship by then.

SpaceX has conducted numerous tests on Ship 25 and Booster 9. Ship 25 has had its lifting points removed from the nose cone, which means the next time it is lifted, it will be on top of Booster 9. That booster was recently moved back to the production site following its static fire test that was meant to last five seconds but lasted just 2.74 seconds with four Raptor engines shutting down early.

Progress with Ship 25 and Booster 9 aside, SpaceX is still completing retrofits and testing on the Orbital Launch Mount in order to prevent the damage that was sustained during the Integrated Flight Test in April. The water deluge system has been tested multiple times and appears to mitigate much of the energy produced by the Raptor engines, the tank farm has been repaired after having debris rained on top of it during the test flight, and they are still performing tests on the quick disconnect system.

The full stack of Starship (Booster 4, Ship 20) (Credit Richard Angle)

There is also the matter of the FAA. SpaceX has just recently submitted its mishap report with its findings following the failure of the first test flight, first reported by Payload Space. The FAA still needs to review the report and determine what fixes need to be completed in order to move forward with another test.

One of those issues will likely be the rocket’s self-destruct system, which took longer than anticipated to destroy the rocket after the test flight went off course. SpaceX has conducted at least one test of a new self-destruct system, but it is unknown if that was sufficient or if more changes are needed.

SpaceX and the FAA are also being sued by environmental groups to have the 5-year launch license revoked, but neither SpaceX nor the FAA have provided updates regarding the ongoing litigation.

While we wouldn’t expect a launch by August 31st, SpaceX is closer to launching Starship again than not. The fast-paced progress definitely can’t be ignored, and a launch attempt by the end of 2023 is certainly quite possible.

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Will Starship launch anytime soon?
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