Regulators have given SpaceX the green light to launch its super massive Starship rocket for a second time, just a few days shy of seven months after the first orbital flight test that ended in a spectacular mid-air explosion.
SpaceX – which has been on standby for this final launch approval – will attempt the launch this Friday, November 17, from its sprawling facility near Boca Chica, Texas. The two hour launch window will start at 7:00 AM CST.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday that it had awarded SpaceX the launch license for a single Starship flight. On the same day, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a written evaluation of the 2022 Programmatic Environmental Assessment finding “no significant environmental changes.”
“The FAA determined SpaceX met all safety, environmental, policy and financial responsibility requirements,” the agency said in a statement.
To say that this is long-awaited is a bit of an understatement. Although the first orbital flight test in April caused plenty of damage – most notably to the launch pad, which was cratered by the Super Heavy booster’s 33 Raptor engines – SpaceX managed to both repair the damage and upgrade both the launch infrastructure and rocket in just under seven months.
To say that there is much riding on Starship’s development – well, that’s also an understatement.
Starship is the most powerful rocket ever made. Standing nearly 400-feet-tall fully stacked, the rocket has two stages: a Super Heavy booster and an upper stage, also called Starship. In the nearer term, the rocket will hopefully land humans on the Moon for NASA before the end of the decade; in the longer term, it’s designed to fulfill SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s ambitions to “spread the light of consciousness to the universe” – which is to say, colonize Mars.