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SpaceX announces it will be providing a webcast for Starship’s first orbital flight

Starship/Superheavy flight plan for first orbital flight
Click for original image.

SpaceX today revealed the details for its live stream of the first orbital launch of Superheavy/Starship, now targeting a launch date around April 21, 2023, depending on when the FAA issues the launch license.

A live webcast of the flight test will begin ~45 minutes before liftoff. As is the case with all developmental testing, this schedule is dynamic and likely to change, so be sure to stay tuned to our social media channels for updates.

I will embed that live stream here on Behind the Black. Stay tuned for more information.

The flight plan is shown above. The website also provides a detailed timeline. If launch manages to pass through Max-Q and get to stage separation, Superheavy will do a flip to do a soft targeted landing in the Gulf of Mexico. Starship will continue into orbit, and then fire its engines to return to Earth to do a soft targeted landing in the Pacific northeast of the Big Island of Hawaii.

That is the plan. Much can go wrong along the way, considering Superheavy has never flown once, no less with Starship stacked on top. Furthermore, Starship has never flown in its present iteration. Previous suborbital tests were using much earlier prototypes vastly different that this prototype, #24 in the series.

Regardless whether all goes perfectly or some things fail, the launch will be a success because it will provide SpaceX data for future test flights, which are waiting in the wings.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Gealon

    I can’t wait for this launch attempt. This is quite literally history in the making. With any hope, mankind’s first, relatively easy access to space.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Two words that will ensure the webcast is a roaring success for space fans like me… Kate Tice!

  • Ray Van Dune

    Kate Tice notwithstanding, I am unsure about the accuracy of the statement “Starship will continue into orbit, and then fire its engines to return to Earth to do a soft targeted landing..”

    I don’t see any SpaceX reference to Starship “firing its engines to de-orbit”. What I see from SpaceX’s text and diagram is that immediately after stage separation, Starship will fire its engines a sufficient amount to attain only what could be called a partial orbit, or perhaps a sub-orbit, one that has a perigee touching the upper reaches of the atmosphere near Hawaii. Then it will rely atmospheric drag to slow to the point that it can do the skydiver vertical re-entry.

    In other words the Starship will make a single burn immediately after separation from Superheavy. This is consistent with the avoidance of the term “orbital” to name the test, and with SpaceX’s expressed desire to ensure a re-entry in a safe designated region, even if the Starship engines do not perform optimally.

  • Gary

    Does anyone know why the Starship/Super Heavy combo would have been unstacked?

  • David Eastman

    This current stack did not have the flight termination systems installed and armed, and that can’t really be done while stacked. So it was always the case that they were going to have to de-stack, install and arm the FTS, and re-stack before the actual test flight.

  • Gary

    David Eastman,

    Thanks. Just another difference with SLS. You can do stuff like this without causing major delays.

  • Ray Van Dune

    As a general principle, I would assume you would want to arm the FTS as late before launch as possible, hopefully after all workers had cleared to area.

    By making it necessary to unstack to arm it, you also make it necessary to restack with it armed, which should not happen at the last instant, and could potentially involve workers hands-on, or am I wrong?

  • Ray Van Dune

    The flight profile diagram is of course highly stylized, but I cannot help but wonder about the rather squared-off entry into the skydiver maneuver.

    Will there be an attempt to use dynamic soaring to hold a higher altitude as speed bleeds off? The pitch authority afforded by differential use of the elonorons should allow that. Or would the necessary shallower angle of attack risk tile scrape-off?

    As I understand it, the Shuttle maintained a high AOA and used S-turns instead of pitch variations to control descent profile, perhaps for this very reason.

  • Mike Borgelt

    “As I understand it, the Shuttle maintained a high AOA and used S-turns instead of pitch variations to control descent profile, perhaps for this very reason.”

    I think the high AoA was to maximize the area presented to the airflow and reduce the heat load per unit area.
    Starship is reasonably “fluffy” and will try to do most of its deceleration up high so the skydiver profile is likely I think.

  • Star Bird

    When can we start construction of the Starbases ?

  • Mike Borgelt

    “By making it necessary to unstack to arm it, you also make it necessary to restack with it armed, which should not happen at the last instant, and could potentially involve workers hands-on, or am I wrong?”

    How about a small fiberglass pole sticking out of the FTS with a red streamer on it. Stack with pole in place. Send drone to grab it and pull it out. FTS then armed.

  • Ray Van Dune

    Mike, that’s the kind of thing I was thinking of.., or maybe just a lanyard to the tower, that gets pulled when the ship moves up!

  • Gary

    I like the way you guys think. Simple and straightforward. I was involved in the railcar business for many years and any time our design group came up with something electronic or that involved hydraulics, I would go back to them with, “give me something simple and straightforward which (a) is less likely to fail or (b) if it does fail, can be repaired by someone in the field with minimal cost.” They didn’t always accede to us annoying sales guys, but sometimes they did.

  • Richard M

    Ah, the joys of regulators. Felix Schlang tweeted this out, though of course I cannot vouch for its accuracy:

    “Reliable sources told me that the reason for the still missing SpaceX Starship FAA license is a missing environmental letter from the department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The letter needs to be in before all requirements can be met.

    Meanwhile we now have a NOTAM.”

  • Richard M

    Followup from Felix: “Some more insight: The letter seems to be about a rare shark species that has not been spotted in the area for 40 years.”

    You have got to be [deleted].

  • Richard M: I don’t allow obscenities. I really don’t even allow the obvious but hidden use of obscenities. Adding some asterisks but making sure everyone knows the curse word you want to use is not acceptable.

    You are warned. Don’t do it again or you will be banned for a week.

    Why is it that everyone, on the left AND the right continually wishes to act like a barbarian? Can we not at least TRY to act like adults who are part of a mature civilization?

  • Richard M: This rumor rings true. It also fits with my hypothesis that the bureaucracy in the federal government are trying to stop SpaceX. Fish and Wildlife routinely celebrates the wildlife preserve surrounding the government’s Cape Canaveral launch sites. It therefore knows SpaceX is not doing any significant harm to the wildlife around Boca Chica.

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