Elon Musk says Mars rocket Starship 'ready for launch'

The billionaire is hoping to receive a launch licence this month

Billionaire Elon Musk has said his deep-space rocket Starship is ready for lift-off from SpaceX's launch facility in Texas. Photo: SpaceX
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Billionaire Elon Musk has said his deep-space rocket Starship is ready for lift-off from SpaceX's launch facility in Texas.

The Federal Aviation Administration has listed the rocket's orbital test flight for Monday, April 17, but SpaceX can only go ahead if a launch licence is approved by then.

Starship is the world's most powerful rocket and will be used to send humans to the Moon and then eventually to Mars.

"Starship is ready for launch. Awaiting regulatory approval," Mr Musk tweeted on Sunday.

It is a two-stage rocket system that comprises a booster — the Super Heavy launch vehicle — and a Starship spacecraft.

It will be able to produce 3,991 tonnes of thrust, 15 per cent more than Nasa’s Apollo Moon rocket Saturn V.

SpaceX is contracted by Nasa to develop the Starship Human Landing System, which would enable astronauts to land on the Moon under the US space agency’s Artemis programme.

Mr Musk has already sold seats on the Starship, including to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who plans on flying on the first crewed flight to the Moon, taking eight artists with him as part of his dearMoon programme.

American billionaire Jared Isaacman is also working with SpaceX through his Polaris programme, a series of privately-led space missions.

Mr Isaacman will serve as commander on the Polaris III mission - the first crewed flight on the Starship rocket.

But SpaceX has to prove that Starship can safely reach orbit before operations can begin.

Completing this orbital test flight would be the first step for the company towards making Starship flights a reality.

SpaceX has been developing the rocket for many years, with significant progress made in the last year to help achieve a successful orbital test flight.

On January 24, SpaceX completed a crucial fuelling test of the deep-space rocket ― an important step before an orbital test flight can take place.

Starship was loaded with 4.6 million kg of propellant.

As part of the test flight, the rocket will launch from Starbase — SpaceX's launch site in Boca Chica, Texas — and the booster will separate from the spacecraft about 170 seconds into the flight.

The booster will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 32km from the shore.

The orbital Starship will continue flying between the Florida Straits.

It will achieve orbit before performing a powered, targeted, soft-ocean landing about 100km off the north-west coast of Kauai, a Hawaiian island.

Updated: April 09, 2023, 7:22 AM