Starship Orbital Test [17.04.2023]


The time has come! SpaceX is finally ready to launch Starship.

As Elon says: "Excitement Guaranteed"

SpaceX has satisfied all requirements and received the launch license from the FAA:

230415_starship_faa_launch license.png

The license in revision 0 is applicable to the first flight only (§4.b.iv) but can/will be modified.
The term of the license terminates five years after issuance.

The FAA’s Air Traffic Control System Command Center has issued an advisory on April 15th which Indicates the earliest possibility on April 17th with a backup on the 18th:

230415_starship_ATCSCC Advisory.png


Ryan Hansen Space produced an animated movie about howthe first orbial test flight could look. The details in the animations is extremely close to the current setup. From the state of Starbase, Mechazilla, launch table, Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft, everything looks very similar to the most recent pictures and videos that are available.
An astonishingly detailed 20 minute piece of art: SpaceX Starship | O.F.T (Orbital Flight Test) Animation

He took creative license to show the deployment of Starlink v 2.0 satellites. There will not be any deployment.
The mission is a complete success when Starship splashes down in the Pacific Ocean, to the north of Hawaii.

Starship data :

Full Stack
Payload capacity (fully reusable):100 – 150t
Starship Spacecraft
Super Heavy Booster Rocket

What if it goes wrong?

Marcus House has been looking for numbers, formulas and references to find out. It is complicated: SpaceX Starship Explosive Potential, and Big Bang Theory

Depending on assumptions about explosion potential for methane and the height above the pad, this could get bad.
Worst case is a perfect methane and oxygen mixture on the ground:

  • methane holds ~ 13 times the energy of TNT equivalent per ton.
  • detonation velocity is ~ 1/3 of TNT.
  • completely stacked, the rockets hold ~1’000 tons of liquid methane.
  • that is equivalent to a ~ 4 kilotons TNT explosion.

It would damage buildings over 3 km away. As a recent reference: the 2020 Beirut explosion was around 1,1 kiloton TNT equivalent.

Elon assumes it would be more like a giant fireball instead of a violent explosion, because most of the methane will be in liquid form at the time of ignition and it would take some time to evaporate and mix with oxygen until it lights on fire.

CSI Starbase: Why SpaceX Could Be Forced To Abandon Starship Payloads Until 2024!

Planned Trajectory

Ideally the booster will perform a partial boost-back burn after stage separation and try to vertically land in the Gulf of Mexico, close to the coast of Texas. The second stage will ideally make a belly-flop landing near Hawaii – without trying to vertically land in the water.

230415_starship_flight events.png

Planned flight events SpaceX

Starship's First Flight Trajectory Revealed! Where Will it Land? | SpaceX Boca Chica

What is success?

SpaceX will probably be happy when the second stage ignites and reaches space. Elon pegs the chance at 50% for the first attempt and at 80% for this year.
Musk hopes to launch a second stack around August.
The best it could ever be is when the second stage splashes down in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
A reasonable success would be passing max Q. The point of maximal aerodynamic pressure on the vehicle.
The worst case would be an explosion on, or slightly above the pad. That would destroy the infrastructure, cause immense delays and won’t yield much data to learn from. Elon’s optimistic guess in this case is that it would lead to a 6 month delay in development.

Where to watch:

Tim Dodd and Elon Musk tour Starbase

Tour 2022:

Tour 2021:

Prototype Tests

SpaceX: Starship | SN10 | High-Altitude Flight Test – 04.03.21
SpaceX: Starship | SN10 | High-Altitude Flight Recap
Tim Dodd: Starship SN10 [4k, Clean Audio & Slow Mo Supercut]

Scott Manley recapping what changes happened in previous iterations until the successful SN-15 launch: SpaceX's Starship Prototype Takes To The Skies And Returns Safely

SpaceX: Starship | SN15 | High-Altitude Flight Test – 06.05.22
SpaceX: Starship | SN15 | Flight Test Recap

Cosmic Perspective: Valhalla: Starship Explosion Footage SN8-SN11 - 4K

Further information Useful Starship links

Background information about previous SpaceX launches: Wikipedia

FAA: SpaceX Starship Super Heavy Project at the Boca Chica Launch Site

FAA: Licensed Launches

Starship OFT flight plan

The Launch Pad Network:

Vote for my witness: @blue-witness

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  • peakd
  • ecency
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    I’ve been hugely anticipating this day since the first prototypes of this spectacular beast! And more than a year has passed since the last flight test. This attempt for the first orbital flight cannot be nothing less than spectacular! Fingers crossed for the team of SpaceX!


    I'm wondering how many attempts it takes until they move that thing off the pad (into the air or into bits and pieces strewn all over the place).


    We will understand… sooner or later! Either way the result is gonna be spectacular.


    I am fricking hyped too! Ping me every time you have news. 😜 if you recall... I need this!


    I love everything related to technology and even more if it is to try to create a better world for us, all living beings on earth, and I personally think that Starship and SpaceX are doing an incredible job in this regard. Thanks for share this.