Elon Musk Says SpaceX Starship Can Conduct Orbital Test Flight In November

The first stage Starship booster during a static fire test earlier this month. Image: SpaceX

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Space Exploration Technologies Corporation's (SpaceX) chief executive officer Mr. Elon Musk has shared more information about his company's plans to conduct a highly anticipated test flight of its Starship launch vehicle platform. SpaceX is developing Starship in its facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, and the company recently conducted one of the largest static fire tests of the rocket since it started to build them. Musk hopes that SpaceX will launch Starship to orbit by early November at the latest, and by that time, have two prototypes ready for testing as it increases its rate of production for what will be the world's largest rocket when it launches.

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Musk shared the details in a series of tweets that he made earlier today, outlining that the earliest orbital flight launch attempt for Starship will be in late October and it might be delayed to early November. SpaceX is currently testing the Booster 7 prototype for Starship's first stage, and this was the booster that the company tested earlier this week.

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This was the largest test for the booster, as SpaceX outlined that it successfully tested the seven Raptor 2 engines at the same time. Booster 7 has 33 of these engines, and footage from the site courtesy of dedicated onlookers revealed that the test lasted for a couple of seconds without any mishaps.

Following the test, SpaceX will continue to make upgrades on Booster 7, and Musk's statements suggest that this will be the first booster that will make an orbital flight attempt. These upgrades are for "reliability" - and they will serve to protect the engines in case of an accident. These engines are the most valuable component of the rocket, and the risk of losing all of them due to an accident on a single one is too high.

The upper stage Starship spacecraft as it performs a six engine static fire test earlier this month. Image: SpaceX

Commenting on the booster upgrades, Musk stated that:

Our focus is on reliability upgrades for flight on Booster 7 and completing Booster 9, which has many design changes, especially for full engine RUD isolation.

8:22 AM · Sep 21, 2022 ·Twitter for iPhone

A RUD stands for 'rapid unscheduled disassembly, and the upgrades started a while back in the form of shielding for the engines. Musk also admitted that flying Booster 7 for the first orbital flight test is a little risky, as the upgrades were not part of the rocket's design.

In regards to the test itself, shared that:

Late next month maybe, but November seems highly likely. We will have two boosters & ships ready for orbital flight by then, with full stack production at roughly one every two months.

8:30 AM · Sep 21, 2022 ·Twitter for iPhone

After an aggressive testing campaign last year that saw Starship's upper stage land successfully following a suborbital flight test, SpaceX has focused its attention on developing the booster stage and new engines.

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Over the course of this year, the company has had to make some changes to its booster design, and it has managed to turn things around exceptionally fast following some malfunctions, which first saw the rocket's fuel pipe deform and then saw an explosion at its base after an engine test. The latter seems to have motivated the company to expedite durability upgrades on the boosters, as Booster 7's initial design did not factor in the changes, and it has been rumored for a while that this might be the lucky booster that makes it to orbit.

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