Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Got Some Time Wednesday Afternoon/Evening?

Teslarati is reporting that Elon Musk will be presenting an update on the status of Starship on a live video feed that we can apparently watch. 

 The venue: the National Academies’ first virtual Space Studies Board. Vaguely titled “SpaceX Starship Discussion,” the CEO’s presentation – scheduled at 6pm EST on November 17th – will likely be his first Starship-specific update since September 2020 and, most importantly, it will be streamed live.

Since Musk’s last partial update, SpaceX has made a spectacular amount of progress, leaving no shortage of topics for the CEO to cover. In September 2020, Starship prototype SN6 had just completed SpaceX’s third 150m (~500 ft) hop test in South Texas, while the company was also close to finishing the first higher-altitude prototype (SN8). Three months later, after completing a range of preflight tests and having its nose section installed at the launch pad, Starship SN8 would nearly ace SpaceX’s first 10+ kilometer (~6 mi) launch and landing test, only failing seconds before touchdown after an otherwise successful 6+ minute flight.

There is a video conference link  that appears to be open to the public.  That is, there is no mention of registering in advance or of codes that need to entered anywhere.  

There's no shortage of accomplishments in Starship development to talk about, although the last few months have been more focused on infrastructure than launches.  The last launch, SN15, was six months ago in early May.  As I was quoting Casey Handmer saying on Saturday, 

Two years ago, Raptor was unproven, aero flaps had never been demonstrated, and stainless steel rocket construction was still troubled. Today, these major programmatic risks are largely retired. SpaceX has qualified their full flow staged combustion engine. They’ve done a full system test of the landing process, and they’ve ramped up QA in construction. There are still major risks on the critical path between now and a fully reusable Starship, but no miracles are required to solve them.

From outside the operation it's hard to determine the precedence of things causing the slowdown in Starship tests but we can be sure that the FAA reviews are a significant factor, if not the biggest single delay.  News broke yesterday that the FAA said the target date for completion of their Environmental Assessment of SpaceX’s orbital Starship launch site is December 31st, 2021.  Assuming they don't finish before that date it seems to eliminate any orbital launch attempt this year.

The "Permitting Dashboard" shows this summary of the work:

Early word from the FAA indicates the report will be a FONSI - Finding Of No Significant Impact - the best case.  If they had a list of things they objected to, we could be talking another year before Starship flew.     


  1. I hope the FAA doesn't get in the way of Musk. I so want to see Starship fly.

    1. I wonder, if the FAA is dumb enough to "get in the way", if he won't move the entire ensemble to a country where the alphabet doesn't run/ruin the scientific endeavors.

    2. Sadly, we're still the best place to be. Any 'free-er' country will have a host of problems like being on the arse-end of supply, being corrupt as fark, or just way too not there.

      The bottom corner of Texas still can get supplies from the rest of the states. Some island in the Caribbean, not so much. Marshall Islands (where Falcon 1 launched from) definitely not so much. South or Central America, eh no way. Africa is definitely a Big Nope. Even Canada, too cold, way too cold. Australia has sold out to the environmental weenies.

  2. Maybe Mr. Musk ought to find a way to keep his thermal tiles attached BEFORE launching to orbit? The two second hot fire the other day STILL left many of the Starship tiles missing at the end. Ask the Columbia crew what happens if the vehicle experiences burn-through during re-entry

  3. I think the current regime hates Musk since he actually contributes to society rather than tear it down like the other billionaires. On the other hand, they are also worried about China, for good reason. Or at least they should be. So they'd best not get in the way of Starship or pretty soon China is gonna have dominance of at minimum LEO.