The first orbital flight of the Starship reusable spacecraft being developed by SpaceX will take place in 2022, said the head and founder of the company, Elon Musk.
“At the moment I am more than confident that we will be able to get to orbit this year,” he said during a presentation at SpaceX’s Starbase in Boca Chica (quoted by Reuters).
The entrepreneur also noted that SpaceX had encountered difficulties in developing the Raptor 2 engines for the Super Heavy launch vehicle, which should deliver the ship into orbit. According to him, the problems were caused by melting inside the engine chambers from high heat.
Musk added that the company is “very close” to achieving this goal and plans to increase the production of engines to seven to eight units per week by March. SpaceX is expected to produce a new Starship and launch vehicle monthly by the end of this year.
The Starship reusable spacecraft is designed to deliver people and cargo to Mars and the Moon. It is designed for 100 passengers and is capable of delivering a payload weighing more than 100 tons to low Earth orbit. SpaceX has conducted several test launches of prototype vehicles within the Earth’s atmosphere over the past year, but the ship did not land without an accident for the first time only in May. Then the prototype SN15 climbed to a height of about 10 km, its flight lasted about six minutes.
It was previously planned to launch the rocket into orbit in November 2021, but the flight was postponed to 2022 due to an environmental review of the SpaceX complex in Boca Chica, which is being conducted by the US Federal Aviation Administration. Initially, the regulator had until December 31 to decide whether the planned development of the territory poses a threat to the environment. However, three days before the expiration of this period, the department announced that it would take another two months to complete the audit. The main reason for the postponement was the large number of comments (over 18,000) to the draft version of the report prepared in September last year. The environmental assessment process also includes consultations with other government agencies on the topics of endangered species and the preservation of historic sites.