As hinted at or expected for the last several days, the news broke this afternoon that
the Federal Aviation Administration had granted the launch license
for Starship Integrated Flight Test 2. SpaceX's "Launches" website
shows a two hour launch window opening at 8:00 AM EST (7:00 AM on site or 1300
FAA's TFR (Temporary Flight Restrictions) website
shows the launch window ending at 10:39 EST. This was posted a couple of
days ago, and today they posted a TFR for Saturday for the same times. I
have to assume SpaceX knows if they would stretch that launch window from two
hours to 2:39.
Screen capture from SpaceX's launches
The announcement was in the afternoon, EST, and while I didn't see the exact time (I was working in the ham station) by about 4:30 they had begun the process of stacking Ship 25 on Booster 9 and it seemed to go fairly quickly. It seemed to be stacked by sundown in Boca Chica, so on the order of one to 1-1/2 hours.
This test is a big deal; not just for SpaceX but for the entire space industry. Last words to Stephen Clark at Ars Technica:
SpaceX's Starship rocket is a central element for NASA's Artemis program, which aims to return astronauts to the Moon later this decade. NASA has contracts worth more than $4 billion to use a human-rated deep space derivative of the Starship upper stage for crew landings at the Moon's south pole. There's a lot to do before Starship can do this, including in-orbit fuel transfers and the development of life support systems.
US military leaders have also expressed interest in Starship's ability to haul more than 100 tons of payload into orbit, significantly more lift capacity than any other rocket. SpaceX officials told Ars last month the FAA should be encouraged to prioritize missions of national importance.
But the first step is demonstrating Starship can reliably fly to space. That's what SpaceX will attempt to do Friday.
I would have phrased that slightly differently; that's what SpaceX will begin to attempt to do Friday. It takes more than one good flight to demonstrate flying reliably.
EDITED Thursday Nov. 16, 5:00 PM ET: During testing a problem was discovered that required destacking Ship 25 for repairs. Launch is set for Saturday the 18th, same time (7:00 AM CST) the post title was also edited.