The FAA has issued a launch permit for SpaceX’s test launch of its Starship spacecraft aboard its Super Heavy rocket booster with the earliest launch window opening at 8:00 a.m. April 17 with backup windows on each of the five following days. It’s the largest rocket combination ever built, towering almost 400 feet above the launch site at Boca Chica, Texas. Because of the complexity of the 33-rocket system and its sheer size, the FAA spent more than 500 days reviewing the application, the longest review period ever for a launch system.
The agency says SpaceX has fulfilled all the myriad requirements and safety mitigations and it’s satisfied the test can be held at least safely, if not successfully. “The FAA is responsible for protecting the public during commercial space transportation launch and reentry operations,” the FAA said in a statement to SpaceNews. “We carefully analyzed the public safety risks during every stage of the mission and required SpaceX to mitigate those risks.”
The main booster will fire for two minutes and 49 seconds before the second stage takes over for a nine minute and 20 second burn. By then, the Starship will be near Hawaii at an altitude of 150 miles, and it will reenter the atmosphere and fall into the Pacific. The whole system is designed to be reusable but there will be no recovery of the test components.