NASA estimated the chances of SpaceX to send Starship into orbit in 2022

(ORDO NEWS) — After SpaceX became a full participant in the competition to create a lunar lander (HLS) for the Artemis program, the pace of Starship development slowed down radically.

The reason for this is the increased safety requirements: the explosions familiar to engineers from the Elon Musk team (that is, excuse me, unplanned lightning-fast disassembly of prototypes) began to cause an order of magnitude more questions from NASA.

Including because of this, the timing of the first flight of the revolutionary spacecraft into orbit has already been postponed countless times. But now the government agency itself has set tentative dates.

The long-awaited news for astronautics fans was announced by the SpaceNews portal : NASA expects the first test orbital flight of Starship from SpaceX in early December.

Such conclusions were made by the deputy first assistant to the head of the Artemis Campaign Development direction of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ( NASA ) Mark Kirasich.

He spoke Monday, October 31, before the NASA Advisory Board’s Committee on Manned Missions and Related Operations.

Kirasich’s report was based on the current state of the Starship project , an analysis of tests already passed and planned tests.

In addition, SpaceX must obtain a launch license from the US Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA ) before the new spacecraft’s first flight into space.

Previously, this department has already delayed the possibility of launching a giant steel rocket due to an assessment of the harm to the Boca Chica spaceport for the local environment.

After several long months of bureaucratic delays, the companies were still allowed to launch (from an environmental point of view), but they were obliged to comply with 75 points of mandatory measures to reduce the burden on nature.

In total , NASA is waiting for the results of four test flights from SpaceX before the start of a full-fledged mission under the Artemis program.

The first, as already mentioned, is in December 2022. Its program has not changed and corresponds to the one that the company described in the application for regulators a year and a half ago: launch from Boca Chica, controlled descent of the Super Heavy into the Gulf of Mexico, entry of Starship into orbit and exit from it before the completion of one full orbit, splashdown of the ship near the Hawaiian Islands.

The second orbital flight will include fuel transfer in space, a critical procedure for using Starship in any interplanetary and lunar missions.

The details of the third mission are not yet known – it is assumed that it will be “long”. And, finally, the fourth start is a full-fledged rehearsal of the flight to the Moon, landing and take-off from it.

Prior to this, the first orbital prototype, in addition to the approval of the launch by regulators, will have to pass several mandatory tests on Earth.

Among them are the burning of all 33 Raptor engines of the Super Heavy first stage , as well as the “wet dress rehearsal”, which is the development of all pre-launch procedures, including full refueling, but without direct ignition and separation from the launch pad.

NASA estimated the chances of SpaceX to send Starship into orbit in 2022 2
Super Heavy and Starship on the launch pad, view from the sea

Note that despite the great weight of the opinions of NASA representatives regarding the pace of development of the Starship project , they do not yet mean that the ship will really fly in a little over a month.

Yes, in contrast to the optimistic Musk, civil servants usually voice more restrained and realistic assessments.

But whatever one may say, when SpaceX ‘s revolutionary interplanetary spacecraft became part of the government’s lunar exploration program, the company’s reckless work style in this project clearly had to be abandoned. Anyway, for the most part.

Another confirmation of this is the consequences of the explosion on the launch pad in July, when during the test of the turbopumps of the Super Heavy engines , propellant components flared under it.

Previously, SpaceX engineers would have been unlikely to delay further work on the prototype by more than a couple of days.

Now, the incident has attracted the close attention of NASA and FAA representatives : Musk was required to work out security procedures in detail, as well as analyze all the data received, in order to prevent such an incident in the future in any case.

This does not mean that SpaceX would not have done it anyway, but if the prototype was not damaged and it can fly, the company could still launch it, and deal with the “pop” problem along the way and then. From now on, the priorities have changed.

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