Elon Musk’s SpaceX has applied to test its Starship spacecraft in suborbital flight, marking significant progress towards a manned flight to Mars. The private space firm is building the Starship craft in the hope of eventually using it to ferry people and cargo around the Solar System.
In August, a single-engine Starship prototype dubbed Starhopper made an impressive but short flight, or “hop,” from the company’s test facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Now preparations are in process to take a bigger, orbital prototype much closer to space in the coming weeks.
The Starship will fly to an altitude of 22.5km before landing on the same launch pad it will use to take off, according to a new filing with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It will be launched on SpaceX’s Super Heavy rocket and once it arrives at Mars it will use its onboard rockets to navigate its way to the surface of the planet.
In a major breakthrough for the company, the Starship vehicle will run on liquid methane and liquid oxygen, both of which can be found and manufactured on the Red Planet. The FCC papers also list Oct. 13 as an operation start date, so it would seem we’re unlikely to see the next Starship test flight before then.