“We’re actually going to be impacted this year with the lack of liquid oxygen for launch,” Shotwell said during a Space Symposium panel, per a video uploaded to YouTube by ExpovistaTV. “We certainly are going to make sure hospitals have the liquid oxygen they need,” she said, without elaborating.
“For anybody that has liquid oxygen to spare, would you send me an email?” she added.
Shotwell, who is also SpaceX’s chief operating officer, also said the worldwide microchip shortage had delayed new user terminals for the company’s satellite internet project, Starlink.
CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that SpaceX had shipped 100,000 user Starlink terminals, which come as part of the user kit and connect to the company’s satellites in orbit. The service is now operating in 14 countries, he said – Starlink’s goal is to build a high-speed internet network that covers the world.
In the next two weeks, the company needed to add “final head shield tiles,” add “thermal protection” to the Raptor rocket engines, complete work on “ground propellant storage tanks,” and add a quick disconnect arm to the top of the spaceship, Musk said.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has warned Elon Musk’s SpaceX that it could order the company to take down its new rocket-assembly tower at its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, Reuters reported.
An FAA environmental review of the Boca Chica launch site including SpaceX’s proposed Super Heavy rocket and tower is still underway and therefore “the company is building the tower at its own risk,” an FAA spokesperson told Insider.
The FAA sent a letter to SpaceX in May saying that work to build one of its proposed towers “may complicate the ongoing environmental review process for the Starship/Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Program,” Reuters said. The FAA needs to complete its review before SpaceX can obtain a launch license for the Boca Chica site.
“It is possible that changes would have to be made at the launch site, including to the integration towers to mitigate significant impacts,” the FAA letter said, per Reuters. The FAA added that it had only learned that the integration tower was being built “based on publicly available video footage.”
The FAA said SpaceX told it in May that it doesn’t think the review is necessary because it plans to use the launch tower “for production, research, and development purposes and not for FAA-licensed or permitted launches,” per Reuters’ report.
But the FAA said that SpaceX documentation “indicates otherwise,” including one document saying that the towers would be used to integrate the Starship/Super Heavy launch vehicle, the report said.
The FAA had completed an environmental review of the Boca Chica site in 2014 but it told SpaceX in the May letter that the “480-foot-tall integration tower is substantially taller than the water tower and lightning towers” it had previously assessed.
SpaceX and the FAA did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
This is the latest in a series of clashes between SpaceX and the FAA.
As part of the agency’s environmental assessments, SpaceX needs to ensure that the Starship-Super Heavy system won’t harm nearby wildlife or ecosystems around its Boca Chica launch pad. Without FAA approval and a launch license, SpaceX’s first Starship orbit mission could be delayed, a source told CNN in June.
Musk blasted the agency in February for canceling SpaceX’s Starship flight following a reported launch license violation, and claimed that “humanity will never get to Mars” under new FAA rules.
SpaceX’s president, Gwynne Shotwell, said the company is “shooting for July” for its first Starship rocket orbit launch, SpaceNews reported.
Speaking at the National Space Society’s International Space Development Conference on Friday, Shotwell said: “I’m hoping we make it, but we all know that this is difficult.”
She added: “We are really on the cusp of flying that system, or at least attempting the first orbital flight of that system, really in the very near term.”
The orbital test of the Starship rocket, which is expected to last around 90 minutes, is set to launch from South Texas and splash down off the coast of Hawaii, according to the company’s FCC filing in May, as reported by Insider’s Kate Duffy.
SpaceX hasn’t yet received the regulatory approvals needed for such a launch, however.
In June, a source told CNN that the company may have to delay its orbital mission scheduled for July 1, because of ongoing assessments of wildlife and ecosystems around the launch area.
The regulatory reviews, which needed to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, would grant SpaceX a launch license, the source added.
As it stands, SpaceX’s existing license only covers suborbital flights of the Starship rocket, per Space News.
The reviews need to ensure that the Starship-Super Heavy system won’t damage nearby wildlife or ecosystems around its launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas – which wouldn’t be processed in time for an early July launch, Insider previously reported.
Shotwell had made no reference to the licensing and environmental review process at the conference, Space News reported. In her later remarks, she said: “I never want to predict dates because we’ll still in development, but very soon.”
The platform is intended to be used as a launch and landing platform for the SpaceX Starship, a spacecraft that Musk intends to send to Mars. SpaceX purchased two oil rigs off the coast of Texas earlier this year to serve as “floating” launchpads for the Starship. The platforms have been named Deimos and Phobos, after Mars’ moons.
SpaceX is planning for its first Starship rocket orbital test flight to launch from Texas and splash down off the coast of Hawaii, according to the company’s filing to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday.
Over the past year, SpaceX has launched five prototypes of its Starship rocket into the skies. The first fourburst into flames on landing, but the fifth test flight, with Starship serial No. 15, or SN15, proved successful. This allowed SpaceX to move to the next step of Elon Musk’s goal to reach Mars.
The company’s FCC filings said the test flight, comprised of the Starship rocket and a Super Heavy booster, would blast off from SpaceX’s launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. It did not give a projected launch date. The plan is for the booster to separate from the rocket nearly three minutes into the flight, and return to land roughly 20 miles from shore of the Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile, the Starship rocket is set to continue into orbit, the filing said. SpaceX plans for it to travel almost all the way around the Earth before plummeting back into the atmosphere, and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean around 62 miles off the northwest coast of Kauai, one of the Hawaiian Islands.
The orbital test flight should last around 90 minutes, the filing said.
The five prototypes the aerospace company has already launched were the upper stage of a two-part rocket system for Starship. Now that the 16-story upper stage is able to reach high altitude smoothly, SpaceX will add on a 23-story booster called Super Heavy.
The Super Heavy booster will try to heave the nearly 400 feet tall spaceship towards orbit.
SpaceX’s ultimate goal is for the Starship to carry humans into low-Earth orbit, to the moon, and to Mars, then return to Earth to repeat the journey again. In April, NASA awarded SpaceX an exclusive contract to land the first humans on the moon since 1972.
Police are looking for a YouTube creator who entered SpaceX’s launch site in South Texas and filmed close-up videos of SpaceX’s SN11 Starship rocket.
In late March, Caesar L. Galaviz got into the Boca Chica base of Elon Musk’s aerospace company without any security stopping him. He filmed himself wandering around the launch site and walking underneath the 16-story-tall prototype Starship. He then uploaded the video to his YouTube channel, which is called Loco VlogS.
Sheriff Eric Garza of Cameron County tweeted on Monday that police had issued an arrest warrant for Galaviz “for intentionally going onto the SpaceX property without their consent.”
Garza said Galaviz’s last known location was Conroe, Texas.
Galaviz later deleted the video, which got five likes and 100 dislikes, but another YouTube account reuploaded the recording on March 31.
Galaviz posted an apology video on April 1, saying his actions were “wrong” and “illegal.”
“In my eyes, in that time of moment, I didn’t really think about that,” he said.
Galaviz told Insider in April that he entered the premises because he thought it would make a good video for his YouTube subscribers. “I hope that the SpaceX community can forgive me for my actions,” he said.
Elon Musk on Friday said his aerospace company SpaceX may attempt another blast off of its fifth Starship rocket soon, following its successful landing on Wednesday.
Starship serial No. 15, or SN15, lifted off from SpaceX’s launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas, and flew to high altitude, before plunging back down to Earth and landing smoothly back on the landing pad.
The latest version of the mega-spaceship was the only version to not explode, taking SpaceX closer to adding another reusable launch vehicle to its collection. The previous four Starship prototypes burst into flames either during or shortly after landing.
These prototypes are the upper stage of a two-part system. SpaceX want to add on a Super Heavy booster, which will fire the rocket towards orbit, the moon and eventually Mars. The idea is that Starship will return to Earth so the mission can be repeated again and again.
A final version of the 16-story tall Starship rocket is set to land the first humans on the moon since 1972 under an exclusive contract with NASA. The spaceship will send two astronauts to the moon as early as 2024.
On Wednesday, SpaceX sent the latest prototype of its mega-rocket system roaring six miles above Texas, its fifth such launch since December.
SpaceX is no stranger to Starship launches, but unlike the last four attempts, this prototype landed smoothly, without blowing up during its first 15 minutes back on Earth. A previous prototype exploded 10 minutes after landing, after a fire burning around its skirt wouldn’t go out. But this time, the fire at the prototype’s feet appeared to be extinguished.
“Starship landing nominal!” Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, CEO, and chief engineer, declared on Twitter.
This version of the spaceship, called Starship serial No. 15, or SN15, followed the same trajectory as its predecessors. The 16-story rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s launch facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. As it approached the peak of its flight, the vehicle shut off two of its three truck-sized Raptor engines. It hovered at roughly 33,000 feet before cutting the final engine, then tipped sideways and plunged back to Earth. As it neared the ground, the engines reignited to flip the rocket upright, and then it lowered itself to the landing pad.
As of Wednesday afternoon, SN15 was still sitting upright and intact on the landing pad.
A final version of this mega-spaceship is set to become NASA’s next moon lander – the vehicle that could put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.
Musk has an ambitious vision for the launch system. The prototypes his company is launching are meant to be the upper stage of a two-part system. Eventually, a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would heave the spaceship toward orbit. Musk wants this system to carry humans into low-Earth orbit, to the moon, and even to Mars, then return to Earth to do it again. The smooth landing of SN15 gets Starship a big step closer to being the reusable vehicle Musk wants.
“It’s a tough vehicle because we’re trying to crack this nut of a fully and rapidly reusable rocket,” Musk said in a NASA press conference on April 23. “Somebody’s got to do this. And if you have rapid and complete reusability, then that is the gateway to the heavens.”
SpaceX is building a booster that could carry Starship to orbit
The SN15 was the second of the five high-flying Starships SpaceX has launched that touched down in one piece – at least initially. The other was SN10, which landed in one piece in early March but blew up 10 minutes later. The first two Starship prototypes that soared to a high altitudes, SN8 and SN9, both slammed into the landing pad at high speeds and exploded immediately. Another, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.
SpaceX began assembling its first prototype of the Super Heavy booster – the other part of the Starship system – at its Texas facilities in mid-March. Musk said this version of Super Heavy is just for production testing, though the next prototype should fly.
To grasp the size of this launch system, look for the person standing on the lift in this photo Musk shared on Twitter. Starship, not pictured, would sit on top of that booster.
In addition to landing astronauts on the moon, Musk wants the Starship-Super Heavy system to power hypersonic travel on Earth. Ultimately, he has said, he plans to build 1,000 Starships that would carry people and cargo to Mars in order to establish a self-sustaining settlement.
Making Starship-Super Heavy reusable could slash the cost of reaching space by “a factor of 100 or more,” according to Musk. Its enormous size would allow it to carry large payloads to space, including tens of thousands of Starlink internet satellites that SpaceX plans to put into orbit.
In short, this is the launch system on which SpaceX is staking its future. But there are several hurdles to clear before it can reach space.
Environmental reviews could slow Starship’s journey to orbit
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has already booked tickets for himself and eight others for a week-long Starship flight around the moon in 2023. The group is set to become the spaceship’s first passengers. After that, NASA hopes that Starship will return astronauts to the moon in 2024. But a report from the agency’s Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” NASA will meet that deadline.
In addition to successfully landing Starship prototypes, SpaceX will need to integrate the Super Heavy booster with the spaceship, learn to launch the two parts together, and show it can land the booster in one piece.
The company will also need to rocket a Starship into orbit to test its ability to reenter Earth’s atmosphere. That will require a new type of launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, which involves many regulatory hurdles, including a thorough environmental assessment. Depending on the findings of that assessment, it’s possible SpaceX may need to conduct a new environmental impact statement, which could take up to three years.
Complicating matters is a leaked FAA draft document obtained by Insider that revealed SpaceX’s plans to dig natural gas wells and build gas-fired power plants in Boca Chica. Such plans could prolong SpaceX’s environmental review process.
Still, Musk maintains that Starship could fly its first people in “a couple years.” He has also said he is “highly confident” that SpaceX will launch an uncrewed Starship to Mars in 2024, followed by a crewed mission in 2026.
“I tend to be somewhat optimistic with respect to schedules. I feel I should acknowledge this,” he said in the NASA briefing. “So take that with a grain of salt. But I think it’s not out of the question that it could fly people in a couple years.”
SpaceX is about to launch its fifth high-flying Starship prototype on Wednesday afternoon. The spaceship is ready to lift off from the company’s Texas rocket facilities.
Known as Starship Serial No. 15, or SN15, the vehicle is the latest in a series of prototypes that SpaceX is launching up to 6 miles above Boca Chica, Texas. Eventually, a version of this Starship mega-spaceship is expected to become NASA’s next moon lander, which would put boots on the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.
The plan for the SN15 flight calls for the rocket to shut off its three truck-sized Raptor engines one by one as it approaches the peak of its flight. Then the spaceship should tip sideways and plunge back to Earth, using four wing flaps to control its fall. As it nears the ground, SN15 should reignite its engines to flip itself upright and gently lower to the landing pad.
That last step is where its four predecessors have failed.
The first two prototypes that soared to high altitudes, SN8 and SN9, slammed into the landing pad at high speeds and exploded immediately. The third, SN10, landed in one piece but blew up 10 minutes later. The fourth, SN11, exploded in midair as it relit its engines for landing.
Watch Starship’s flight live
SpaceX is set to stream live from the launchpad and from cameras inside the rocket’s skirt, where the engines are, starting at 5:20 p.m. CT.
A few rocket enthusiasts and fans of the company are also broadcasting live from Boca Chica.
The NASASpaceflight’s video stream offers knowledgeable broadcasters and multiple quality camera views.
The commentators on the feed keep track of preparations at the SpaceX facilities that indicate progress toward liftoff – things like clearing the launchpad, activity in the tank farm next to SN15, and the loading of liquid propellant into the rocket.
LabPadre, meanwhile, offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. That YouTube channel is run by Louis Balderas, who lives across the bay from Boca Chica. Below is its main 4K-resolution feed.
For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a resort in South Padre Island, about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued an airspace-closure notice for the Boca Chica area to make way for launch on Wednesday. A Cameron County judge has also issued local road closures. Both closures end at 8 p.m. CT, so SpaceX must launch by then.
Airspace and road closures are both required for launch. But they can change day to day depending on SpaceX’s plans and FAA procedure. If SN15 does not fly on Wednesday, further closures indicate that SpaceX could try again on Thursday or Friday.
A series of Starship explosions
For SpaceX, explosions during rocket development are par for the course.
“They use a different development philosophy than the government does, which is: Fly. If something goes wrong, they try to fix it. Fly again. If something else goes wrong, they try to fix that,” John Logsdon, founder of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council, told Insider. “People have complimented SpaceX on how quickly they move.”
But, Logsdon added, “the fact that they’ve had these early development-program problems means that there will have to be a record of success before anybody except an extreme risk-taker is willing to get aboard.”
Success may be even more critical now that NASA has chosen Starship to land its next astronauts on the moon.
The agency announced earlier this month that it is working with SpaceX to turn Starship into a lunar lander as part of NASA’s Artemis program. NASA hopes to land its first crewed Starship on the lunar surface in 2024, though a recent report from the NASA Office of the Inspector General suggested it’s “highly unlikely” the agency will meet that deadline.
His goals for the launch system extend far beyond the lunar surface. Musk has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships to carry people and cargo to Mars. Ultimately, he hopes to establish a settlement there.
For now, though, SpaceX is trying to land the prototypes without blowing them up.
“Obviously we need to, like, not be making craters,” Musk said in a NASA press conference last month, referring to the explosions. “We’ve got some work to do, but we’re making rapid progress.”
This post has been updated with new information. It was originally published April 19.