SpaceX’s Starship vehicle is prepared to fly, only sitting tight for a launch license

SpaceX engineers completed a final “flight readiness review” over the weekend for the massive Starship and Super Heavy launch systems, certifying that the vehicle is ready for its first test flight. Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, made the decision early on Sunday morning via Twitter, stating that the vehicle would only launch “awaiting regulatory approval.”

The launch system’s integrated flight test is scheduled for April 17 at 7 a.m. local time (12:00 UTC) in South Texas. The Super Heavy first stage and Starship upper stage are the largest and most powerful rockets ever built, so it should be quite the spectacle.

Sources said SpaceX has been working intimately with the Federal Aviation Administration to give the essential information about Starship’s performance and its effects on the area surrounding the launch site. There is an expectation that a launch license will be given for the current week, however there is no assurance this will occur.

Another test, a “launch rehearsal,” is also planned for Tuesday by SpaceX. The first and second stages of the rocket will be fueled as if they were about to launch during this test, but the engines will not start. The company’s confidence in its ability to fuel the Starship launch system and prepare it for liftoff on launch day will grow as a result of this test.

There are early signs that the weather at the launch site will be favorable if SpaceX chooses to launch on Monday, April 17, from its Starbase facility in South Texas. There appear to be very few chances of rain at this time, and moderate surface-level winds.

The Super Heavy rocket will fire for a few minutes during this flight test, if it goes as planned, before separating from the upper stage and making a controlled descent into the Gulf of Mexico. The company will monitor the vehicle’s performance to determine whether SpaceX is prepared to attempt a land-based landing on future missions, just as it did with some of its early Falcon 9 rocket first stages.

Before reentering the atmosphere over the Pacific Ocean, the Starship’s upper stage will attempt to reach orbital velocity after separating from the Super Heavy rocket. SpaceX plans to land Starship in an upward direction into the sea, north of the Hawaiian islands.

The rockets, their engines, and the vehicles’ capability to reenter the atmosphere of Earth and make a controlled landing will all be put through their paces during this test flight, which will not carry any payloads at all.