The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has given SpaceX authorization to test its Starship spacecraft. With this authorization, SpaceX can begin suborbital flights by launching its Starship prototype from its launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas. Assuming the test is a success, SpaceX’s Starship could pave the way for a new era of manned space missions, with astronauts potentially landing on the moon or even the Red Planet.
What Is Starship?
Not to be confused with its Crew Dragon capsule, Starship is SpaceX’s next-generation launch vehicle that’s currently in development. It consists of both a transport container as well as a rocket. The rocket, of course, is used to propel the transport container into space, after which it will fall gracefully back to Earth where it can be reused in other launches. The combination of these components is colloquially known as “Starship.”
Why SpaceX Is Developing Starship
SpaceX is developing Starship for long-distance space missions. As you may know, SpaceX has already successfully developed and used the Crew Dragon capsule. Just last month, the private aerospace manufacturing company sent two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) using its Crew Dragon capsule. While effective, though, the Crew Dragon capsule only supports up to seven astronauts. In comparison, Starship is expected to support up to 100 astronauts. With its ability to support up to 100 astronauts, Starship could potentially be used to send astronauts to the moon or Mars.
FAA Approves Starship for Test Flights
Of course, SpaceX has a long road ahead before it can turn its Starship project into a reality. The good news is that it has already received approval from the FAA to begin test flights of Starship. The authorization gives SpaceX the green light for reusable launch tests. In other words, it can launch Starship into low-Earth orbit, assuming it brings Starship back to the ground shortly thereafter. Furthermore, the FAA has only cleared SpaceX for a single test flight. It will undoubtedly be an important test for SpaceX, but it’s essential to making Starship a reality.
SpaceX has been working on a Starship prototype for several years. Up until now, though, it hasn’t received authorization from the FAA. SpaceX has only been working on and testing its Starship prototype on the ground. With authorization from the FAA, it can now begin reusable launch tests of its Starship prototype.