Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk declared that his Starship rocket could be successfully launched into orbit by the end of 2022. Musk stated, “Optimistically, toward the end of next year. I would be surprised if it is longer than two years for doing the refilling.”
“Musk said that his biggest challenge was on refilling oxygen aboard the ship, rather than fuel as it needed 3.5 times more liquid oxygen,” The Daily Mail reported.
SpaceX is attempting to gain a launch license from the FAA, which is considering giving approval to launch Starship out of Boca Chica, Texas. “The agency is responsible for ensuring that launches to orbit do not pose a hazard to uninvolved people or property,” The Verge noted.
Musk stated, “We don’t have a ton of insight into the way things stand with the FAA. We have gotten sort of a rough indication that there may be an approval in March.”
“The FAA cleared SpaceX to launch out of Boca Chica back in 2014, even prepping a full environment impact statement, or EIS, to detail how the launch site would affect the surrounding area and wildlife refuge. But that approval was decided back when SpaceX planned to launch its smaller Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets from the area,” The Verge added.
If the FAA balks at giving approval for a Moca Chica launch, Musk has said he would relocate the launch to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Musk explained his reasoning for wanting to use the Boca Chica base; it permits Musk more experimental flights than Cape Canaveral, Florida. He stated, “Because we have had a lot of launches going out of the Cape, we didn’t want to disrupt the Cape activity, the operational launches, with sort of the advanced R&D of Starship.”
“So it was important to decouple the operational launches from the R&D launches,” he noted.
“We do have the alternative of the Cape,” he added. “And we actually applied for environmental approval for launch from the Cape a few years ago and received it.”
“There is a time pressure to get the Starship into orbit to give it plenty of time for testing ahead of the Artemis III mission – scheduled for 2025 – which is the first crewed lunar landing since Apollo 17 in 1972. It will see the NASA crew of the Orion descend to the lunar surface on the Starship Human Landing System and stay on the Moon for a week, and will require multiple Starship orbital refillings,” The Daily Mail explained.
Musk, who wants to build a self-sustaining city on Mars, stated, “Why build a giant reusable rocket, why make life multi-planetary? I think this is incredibly important thing for the future of life itself…I completely agree that the vast majority of resources should be dedicated to solving problems on Earth…I’d say like more than 99 percent of our resources should be oriented towards solving problems on Earth.”