One question that has been on the minds of space fans and Elon Musk fans is when the first orbital flight of Starship will take place. Starship has been in development since 2012. The new prototype rocket did not start coming into the public eye until 2020 with its first high-altitude flight test. With 2 high altitude tests under its belt, the rocket is still working to stick the landing.
Starship is a 2-stage liquid fueled rocket and we have only seen the second stage of starship take to the Texas skies. Space X has been testing the rocket’s capability to come out of a belly flop and land right side up. The next suborbital flight for Starship is serial number 10. Space X has said once they stick that landing, they will start focusing on an orbital flight.
Not so fast though – we still have to remember that Starship has a whole other section on it. The Super Heavy Booster, as it is called, is the part of the rocket that will do most of the lifting until it reaches the vacuum of space. The Super Heavy Booster is still in development and the timeline for the first orbital launch is still unknown.
Before SN8 launched from Boca Chica, SpaceX’s founder and chief designer Elon Musk said that we could be looking at its first launch as early as late 2021, but after the failed landing attempts of SN8 and SN9 it really makes this timeline very unknown. SpaceX has always had this vision of going to Mars using what they called BFR or Big Falcon Rocket. The name was changed to Starship because this rocket really has no resemblance to the Falcon family.
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SpaceX has always had a rather lofty timeline with their ideas, but after the success of the Falcon Heavy and also being able to develop 2 Starships within a few weeks of each other, SpaceX does have a chance of reaching the goal of an orbital flight this year. Furthermore, if you look at their launch schedule in a few years they hope to have their first uncrewed flight to Mars by May of 2024.
So when will the first orbital flight take place? Well, I guess that’s for you to decide. Clearly SpaceX is aiming for late this year but at the rate they are moving I am not sure if they will be able to achieve that as we know, though SpaceX has surprised us before. Below I have provided some helpful links and animations of an orbital launch.