SpaceX will

According to reports, SpaceX will attempt its first Starship orbital trip in March.

However, SpaceX still lacks a launch license, so it is unknown whether the Federal Aviation Administration will allow the next-generation spaceship to fly.

SpaceX has stated that it is prepared for its first-ever Starship orbital launch attempt in March.

According to a SpaceNews source, SpaceX’s Gary Henry, senior advisor for national security space solutions, stated at a Feb. 21 panel that Starship is in “excellent shape” following a static burn of 31 of its 33 engines on Feb. 9. (opens in new tab).

“We had a successful hot fire, and that was basically the last box to check,” Henry said at the Space Mobility conference, which was co-hosted by the US Space Force in Orlando. “The vehicle is in good condition. The pad is in good condition.”

While Henry’s prognosis supports SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s February Twitter(opens in new tab) prediction, one major impediment looms in the way: The Federal Aviation Agency, which regulates spaceflights, requires licensing.

SpaceX has announced many Starship launch dates in the last two years that have been pushed back owing to FAA license procedures, so a March flight is far from guaranteed. Environmental considerations and the impact on the local neighborhood near Starship’s launch site in Boca Chica, Texas are factors considered by the FAA.

Starship is SpaceX’s new spacecraft that is planned to eventually take people and cargo to the moon and Mars, as well as to serve other missions such as lofting most of the company’s newer and larger Starlink 2.0 internet satellites to orbit.

Furthermore, Musk has stated that Starship makes the Mars colony economically feasible because the spaceship is totally reusable. The massive spacecraft consists of a first stage called Super Heavy along with the 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper-stage spacecraft known as Starship.

Booster 7, the Super Heavy prototype, will launch an upper-stage Ship 24 model from SpaceX’s Starbase in south Texas for the orbital test mission. Booster 7 will crash land in the Gulf of Mexico, while Ship 24 will circle the Earth once before crashing into the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian island of Kauai.

Starship has completed a number of high-altitude flights and another testing, but it has not flown in about two years. Its most recent sortie was with a three-engine upper-stage named SN15, which traveled 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) before landing vertically in May 2021.

The FAA undertook a programmatic environmental assessment (PEA), which was delayed numerous times due to regulatory issues and public concerns before being completed in June 2022. But, at the time, the agency informed SpaceX that it needed to complete more than 75 steps before missions could be permitted. SpaceX has not yet released a response strategy to these activities. Furthermore, FAA inspections take time, making it unclear how close SpaceX is to meeting its March launch date.

According to the Washington Post, the FAA suggested fining SpaceX $175,000 for failing to provide needed satellite positioning information ahead of a Starlink launch in August 2022. (opens in new tab). The FAA and SpaceX have not stated whether this incident occurred on any of the dozens of Starlink launches that SpaceX has completed.

Elizabeth Howell is a co-author of the book “Why Am I Taller(opens in new tab)?” (ECW Publishing, 2022; with Canadian astronaut David Williams). @howellspace is her Twitter handle (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (new tab) or Facebook (opens in new tab).