After several successful engine fire tests, Elon Musk’s SpaceX is planning to conduct the first orbital flight of its ambitious Starship by the end of this year. The orbital flight is aimed at demonstrating the capability of the world’s biggest spacecraft to one day leave Earth’s orbit and enter the Moon with astronauts and cargo.

Musk, who recently bought Twitter, has been working on the program for years and has developed an entirely new base and facility in Texas, where the development of the rocket and the spacecraft has been moving smoothly. SpaceX has sought for years to send its towering next-generation rocket system into orbit from the company’s private launch facility.

The company has been successful in lifting off the behemoth system, Starship’s upper half some 10 kilometers high, to demonstrate landing attempts, and it now plans to test the entire system.

“We track four major Starship flights. The first one here is coming up in December, part of early December,” Mark Kirasich, a senior Nasa official overseeing the development of the agency’s Artemis moon program, said during a live-streamed Nasa Advisory Council meeting.

The December mission will test the entire system for the first time, involving the company’s 230-foot (70-meter) Super Heavy booster to lift the 160-foot (50-meter) Starship spacecraft into orbit.

During the flight, the Super Heavy booster would return to land, while the orbital Starship spacecraft would re-enter Earth’s atmosphere roughly 90 minutes later to splash down dozens of miles off a Hawaiian coast, according to regulatory documents SpaceX filed last year.

The US Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees commercial launch site safety, has not yet granted a license for the mission to SpaceX.

The license to fly missions will only come from America’s FAA, which will determine granting a license “only after SpaceX provides all outstanding information and the agency can fully analyze it”, an FAA spokesman told Reuters.

Starship is poised to be SpaceX’s flagship rocket system once fully developed, succeeding the company’s fleet of reusable Falcon 9 rockets as a more powerful and fully reusable ride to space for large batches of commercial satellites, space tourists, and professional astronauts.

In late 2020 and early 2021, SpaceX lost four prototypes of the Starship itself in a series of high-altitude test launches when the return landing attempts ended in explosions. The Starship prototype finally made a safe touchdown in May 2021.


India today