SpaceX cleared by FAA to test launch massive 394-foot Starship
SpaceX says Starship test flight could come as soon as Monday
The Federal Aviation Administration awarded SpaceX a launch license on Friday, clearing the way for the first test flight of its 394-foot Starship from southern Texas.
The launch of the world's largest and most powerful rocket – the first with Starship's two sections together – could come as soon as early Monday, according to the company.
The agency said SpaceX had met all requirements, including safety and environmental, after a years-long approval process.
"We carefully analyzed the public safety risks during every stage of the mission and required SpaceX to mitigate those risks," the FAA said.
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The license is valid for five years.
When the nearly 400-foot rocket lifts off, powered by more than 30 methane-fueled engines and 16.7 million pounds of thrust, it will not carry people or satellites.
The test flight, from a remote site near Boca Chica Beach, will last for a period of an hour and a half.
SpaceX will attempt to send the spacecraft on the massive booster around the world, with the "Super Heavy" first stage discarded in the Gulf of Mexico and the spacecraft into the Pacific.
No landings will be attempted for is inaugural trip. Starship is designed to be fully reusable but nothing will be saved from the test flight.
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Early versions of the upper stage were sent into the stratosphere, sticking the landing in 2021.
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, aims to use Starships to send people to the moon and Mars.
All but two of the first-stage engines fired during a launch pad test in January, which the billionaire said was good enough to reach orbit,.
NASA has already signed up for a Starship to put astronauts on the moon as early as 2025. It will be the first moon landing by astronauts in more than 50 years.
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"I’m not saying it will get to orbit, but I am guaranteeing excitement. It won’t be boring," Musk said at a Morgan Stanley conference last month. "I think it’s got, I don’t know, hopefully about a 50% chance of reaching orbit."
He estimated that there is an 80% chance of one of a fleet of Starships attaining orbit by the end of the year.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.