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SpaceX reveals first orbital Starship flight plan, launching from Texas and returning near Hawaii

Starship prototype SN9 launches from the company’s development facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

SpaceX

Elon Musk’s SpaceX on Thursday revealed in filings to the Federal Communications Commission its plan for the next step in testing its massive Starship rocket, in a flight that would splash down off the coast of Hawaii.

SpaceX has conducted multiple test flights of Starship prototypes over the past year, but the plans outline the company’s first attempt to reach orbit with the rocket. Starship prototypes stand at about 150 feet tall, or about the size of a 15-story building, and are built of stainless steel, representing the early version of the rocket that Musk unveiled in 2019.

The company’s FCC filings say it will launch a Starship rocket atop a “Super Heavy” booster stage from SpaceX’s development facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Then the booster will separate, to partially return “and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles from the shore,” the filings say.

SpaceX

“The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100km (~62 miles) off the northwest coast of Kauai in a soft ocean landing,” SpaceX wrote in the filing.

SpaceX

SpaceX

The orbital flight would last just over 90 minutes.

SpaceX’s Starship program continues to move at a rapid pace, with the company coming off last week’s successful landing and recovery of Starship SN15. It was the fifth high-altitude flight test of the rocket, and the first that ended without the prototype exploding.

The company is developing Starship to launch cargo and people on missions to the moon and Mars.

Last this month, NASA awarded SpaceX a nearly $3 billion contract to build a lunar variation of Starship to carry astronauts to the moon’s surface for the agency’s Artemis missions. However, while Musk’s company continues to move forward with Starship development, NASA suspended SpaceX work on the HLS program after Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Leidos‘ subsidiary Dynetics each filed protests of the NASA contract award.

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