SpaceX Aims For Friday Starship Launch


SpaceX says it’s ready to launch its Starship rocket as early as Friday if the FAA can grant permission by then. The 400-foot system has been poised at the pad at SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas, “Starbase” for several weeks while the FAA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service go over the potential environmental impact of the new water deluge system designed to minimize the mayhem unleashed by the 33 engines on the Falcon Super Heavy booster in the April 20 launch.

Without the water buffer, the rocket blew the launch pad to pieces and created a plume of dust and debris that spread five miles. Four minutes later, the rocket itself was destroyed by SpaceX when the booster failed to separate. The FAA grounded the system until dozens of safety changes were made, the addition of the deluge system among them. The safety review was completed Oct. 31 but the environmental study kept going. Although federal agencies haven’t announced anything, local authorities are taking SpaceX’s Friday prediction seriously and have set up a safety perimeter around the launch complex.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. What is the purpose of the fins on the upper stage other than to look like something out of 1940s science fiction.

    • The “fins” are independently articulated flaps to control the attitude of this second stage during atmospheric reentry at orbital velocity 17,500 MPH or more. All of one side, the belly side, is covered with thermal protection tiles. The plan is to down through the atmosphere sideways. Actually belly-wise. Then catch it mid-air with some giant chop sticks then fly it again.

    • There are fins on both the fore and aft sections of the Starship that function as Mr. Charlton explained. They hold the ship in a “belly down” configuration during the high-heat portion of the reentry. They also function as a maneuvering system on descent to guide the rocket on its intended path until it is low enough to fire up some of the engines for the final stage of landing. As I understand it, this launch attempt, if successful, will not be caught by the “chop sticks” at Boca Chica, but will reenter over the Pacific and splash into the ocean near Hawaii.

  2. When this system becomes operational it has the potential to be the greatest game changer this Space Kadet could ever hope for. Elon Musk: love him or hate him, and there is a Jekyll & Hyde aspect, has transformed how to get things done. Books will be written.

  3. Is the newly poured concrete for pad number 2, even set yet?
    If it is not at full strength the same thing will happen, only more so.

    • Actually concrete never reaches it’s full strength – theoretically it increases in strength forever, although it reaches it’s design strength at some point.

    • The new concrete has been in place for several months during a very warm summer in south Texas. I suspect it has reached its intended strength. Besides, much of it directly underneath the launch structure is covered by steel plates intended to absorb most of the blast energy.

  4. Sure is a nice rocket you got there Mr. Elon. It would be terrible if some regulatory agency got all uppity about it…

    • I’m still wondering why the Fish & Wildlife service is involved here. This area is frequently visited by hurricanes, which bring a storm surge of saltwater over the land and large amounts of fresh rainwater as well. A five-minute spray of some fresh water over a small area is not likely to result in any measurable impact that a good thunderstorm would far exceed.

      I often wonder if they tried to build the Kennedy Space Center with its multiple launch complexes today, whether the various agencies would even allow it.

      • Are you kidding? We can’t do half the innovation today because of all the pencil pushers and red tape. There’s things that may make sense, but we’re talking about the same government that glassed parts of the desert and sent radioactive waste downwind into the country. Talk about environmental impact

      • It’s none of the business of the fish and wildlife service.
        When Texas became a state, it retained title to it’s public lands.
        Sorry, but beaches belong to Texas, NOT the federal government.