SpaceX is looking forward to it. to send its next-generation rocket to its first orbital test flight, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has other ideas.
In another blow to SpaceX’s plan to launch the primary orbital flight of its powerful Starship missile much earlier, the FAA said on Tuesday that it needed more time to complete the programmatic environmental assessment of the proposed mission.
The assessment, launched by the FAA last autumn, examines whether the launch of SpaceX would pose a threat to public safety or the environment and also examines relevant issues related to national security, among other things.
The FAA was expected to publish the results of its assessment on May 31, but in the latest series of delays, it said the review would not be ready by June 13, explaining on its website that it needed extra time to to finalize consultations with various government departments and to review all over 17,000 public comments that were submitted during the process.
The outcome of the FAA analysis will determine whether SpaceX can launch the spacecraft from its Starbase base in Boca Chica, Texas. If not, the Elon Musk-led space flight company will have to transport the rocket to another launch site - the Kennedy Space Center in Florida - about 1,000 miles east.
Many passengers are on the spacecraft’s first orbital test flight, as SpaceX and NASA hope to launch a manned missile on the moon and even Mars.
Comprising the first stage of Super Heavy and the upper stage Starship - collectively known as Starship - the rocket flew for about 170 seconds during the test flight, before the ship separated from the Super Heavy stage.
The spacecraft will then fly on a path designed to put it into orbit for the first time, before landing for a targeted splash in the ocean. The entire mission is expected to take approximately 90 minutes.
As with the first leg of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 missile, the company’s ultimate goal is to land both stages of the Starship on the ground so that the vehicles can be used for multiple missions. This would allow SpaceX to launch missions more often, while reducing costs.
If the FAA grants SpaceX launch permission when it submits its review in mid-June, the company could finally send the rocket into orbit in July or August.