Elon Musk says SpaceX could launch Starship orbital flight test next month

SpaceX's Starship SN20 prototype could fly its first orbital test flight next month. This visualization shows how SpaceX's Starship prototype could launch on an uncrewed mission to Mars in 2024.
SpaceX's latest Starship prototype could launch into orbit sooner than anticipated.

SpaceX successfully completed a static fire test yesterday (Oct. 21) with its SN20 Starship prototype. This was a significant hurdle for SpaceX ahead of its first orbital flight testing, which SpaceX previously said would take place in a few months. SpaceX founder Elon Musk now says that launch could be next month.

Musk tweeted today (Oct. 22): "If all goes according to plan, Starship will be ready next month for its first orbital flight attempt,"

Related: SpaceX launches huge Super Heavy rocket from launch stand

Starship will launch its first orbital mission next month if all goes according to plan. This is subject to regulatory approval. October 22, 2021. See more

SpaceX must grant SpaceX a license to launch orbital flight. This is why the launch is currently "pending regulatory approval".

The FAA also conducted an environmental review of SpaceX's operations here in South Texas. The FAA released a draft of their review on September 17th and opened it for public comment and suggestions until October 18. (The FAA still accepts comments via email and mail until Nov. 1.

SpaceNews reports that there have been a wide range of opinions regarding SpaceX's plans for orbital flights to be launched from their facility in South Texas, Boca Chica. While some attendees expressed support for SpaceX's launch efforts from Texas and others expressed concerns about the potential environmental impact of such launches, others supported them.

This review is crucial for all flights into space. The FAA must grant SpaceX a launch licence for its Starship spacecraft as well as its Super Heavy rocket, which is designed to launch Starship into space. SpaceX's Starship is a name that encompasses both the spacecraft as well as the Super Heavy rocket with the aim of sending both cargo and humans to Mars, the moon and beyond.

NASA awarded SpaceX in April a contract to construct a Starship-like lunar lander to be used by the agency's Artemis program. The work on the lander was temporarily halted due to legal issues. In particular, the U.S. Senate has directed NASA to select a second company to construct a lunar lander. The Senate's direction isn’t law, so the request to add another company may not be granted.