SpaceX Starship Orbital Flight FCC Filing

SpaceX has filed its first Super Heavy Starship orbital flight plan.

The Super Heavy Booster will return and land in Texas. The Starship will go to orbit and then land in Hawaii (Kauai) about 90 minutes after taking off.

The Starship Orbital test flight will originate from Starbase, TX. The Booster stage will separate approximately 170 seconds into flight. The Booster will then perform a partial return and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles from the shore. The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100km (~62 miles) off the northwest coast of Kauai in a soft ocean landing.


SpaceX intends to collect as much data as possible during flight to quantify entry dynamics and better understand what the vehicle experiences in a flight regime that is extremely difficult to accurately predict or replicate computationally. This data will anchor any changes in vehicle design or CONOPs after the first flight and build better models for us to use in our internal simulations.

Written by Brian Wang,

26 thoughts on “SpaceX Starship Orbital Flight FCC Filing”

  1. From what I could tell, the issue with the Chinese satellite that they didn't know where it was going to come down. It was just "somewhere along this path" which went around the world multiple times, and included inhabited land.

    This spaceX landing is (supposedly) going to be in a precise location far away from any risky area.

  2. Cool, I can't wait.
    And when we will have working Starship, I hope that Musk will soon start sending solar panels and beaming solar power back to Earth projects. Huge telescopes projects (100x Hubble sized for astronomers and some for commercial activity, like checking out asteroids for resources), sending robots and easy to assemble parts to build base on the Moon. Mass produce and send various probes, small drones to do some research on Moon and Mars, Europa etc

  3. "It's a pity they're going to drop both in the water"
    I am curious if Anglo and few other media will react to that event the same way like they reacted to chinese rocket debris falling into water few days ago and trashing our oceans.

    I am quite confident they will be quiet

    Meanwhile when China dropped their trash, media were fear mongering and blowing the whole thing out of the proportion like literally some asteroid was coming to hit, heh

    Chinas rocket in water – super bad, end of the world. US, Western rocket in water – ee whatever

    We may play this game of being a judge, but we must be fair judge, so if we are blaming Chinese for not solving this problem, we should also blame SpaceX/US/Russia and others for still dropping their stuff into oceans

    Either way, US(Starship) and China will soon have reusable rocket tech and I hope that this short period of dropping trash into ocean will end for the world
    We will move on

  4. Still worth remembering that "NET" stands for Not Earlier Than.

    That's the schedule if absolutely everything goes perfectly.

  5. BN1 was a production pathfinder and was scrapped. BN2 is a test tank (not full size). I just heard that BN2.1 is also now being scrapped and the next full scale booster will be BN3 which is slated to be the booster for the orbital test. I think it's possible that they will get cold feet with this plan and decide to do more booster tests, but that will probably push the orbital test back by a month or more.

  6. In the event timeline at the bottom of the third page of the document linked to at the beginning of Brian's article, I notice that one of the lines reads "Booster Touchdown" while another reads "Ship Splashdown". Should we place any significance on "Touchdown" being used for the booster landing, but "Splashdown" being used for the orbiter's landing?

    And can anyone tell me what the white line and the green line signifies on the drawing labeled "Booster Stage Launch and Landing"? I would guess that the green line is the path of the booster, but what does the white line represent?

  7. Wow! Just Wow!

    I read this on another site first, and I am glad Brian posted this.

    Ninety minutes from Brownsville Texas to Hawaii. With a reusable rocket. Un-frickin-believable.

    New York to Sydney?

    Los Angeles to Bollywood?

    Under two hours?

    6 months ago I couldn't dream that kind of travel for humans would be possible. Now I believe that within 3 years I will see it. The main problems won't be with the rockets, it will be with rocket terminals.

    I have flown from Dallas/Fort Worth on nonstops to Seoul and Sydney. Even in business class, it takes a toll. I can't imagine those 17 hours in coach.

    I would even be willing to stand for two hours if I could make those flights in under two hours.

    If Brian's posts about life extension and space tourism come to fruition in the next 15 years, I can't imagine what the future looks like for my daughters…

  8. On the other hand, the Superheavy will not bellyflop, the recovery from which is by far and away the toughest part of the Starship landing. So it is unlikely that they would wreck many boosters in hops, but it may be equally likely that they would not learn anything they would not learn with a static test.

  9. Yep. Seeing the NET July date, it seems they will really go crazy with Superheavy and launch it on its maiden flight here.

    Either that or just with one or two tests before.

    Probably they trust Raptor and the plumbing a lot more now, but it seems really risky. I mean, of not even launching.

  10. Are they?

    This test seems to be sometime this year (no clear date in the link, but I've heard it will be not earlier than July), so it can be a couple months hence.

    Given the current pace of production and tests of Starships, they can churn out a Superheavy before that and test it.

    But I understand they don't want to wreck many SHs on hops either, given the higher amount of Raptors.

    So maybe.


  11. I can't believe they're going right for the orbital test without doing any booster test flights. They must be really confident in their improvements so far.

  12. At that point they won't be so much worried about the ability to land, especially for the Superheavy. Ability to come down in close enough to the right general location to nail the landing? They'll be worrying about that for the Superheavy.

    For the Starship they'll have that question, AND making sure it doesn't break up during reentry.

  13. Sensible first orbital test. For both vehicles, if they are successful, then they will have data on launch of the stack, separation, controlled return of Super Heavy, orbital insertion, reentry and controlled return of Starship. That’s a pretty tall order, but if they do it, then they will be in good shape to plan landing Super Heavy, Starship and placing the first payload into orbit.

  14. I assume it's the first orbital test for both, but not the first actual launch test of any.

    Superheavy ought to have proven its ability to launch and land already, just not from above the Kármán line.

    Starship too, of course.

  15. I think it's mostly got to do with not having enough confidence in the aerodynamics in this regime to be confident about nailing the landing target, especially for the Starship. Coming down a few miles off target is a lot less of a big deal if you're hitting a large body of water. As is coming apart during reentry.

  16. I think that either SH or Starship could land on an ASDS. SH obviously can land back at Starbase too, no obvious reason Starship couldn’t. Must be about risk/reward for first orbital test. They will try precision landing without risking anything like with early F9.

  17. Wow! This is awesome.
    And Kauai. I love Kauai.
    What a beautiful place to touch down.

  18. It may a rational calculation – based on the stated objective to obtain data to drive design changes they may anticipate significant fuselage changes making the design obsolete, so don't worry about saving it for reuse. Assuming they successfully fish them out of the water, they also get information on engine component failures and refurbishing costs when dunked in salt water, I don't believe they've dunked one of the new Raptors yet. And it's been several iterations of engine improvements since the last time they missed the landing barge.

  19. That's possible, but I suspect that the Starship is just too big for it, too. Musk isn't buying up offshore oil platforms for no reason, he needs launch and landing sites off the coast that are much larger than a barge.

  20. It's a pity they're going to drop both in the water, but given the altitude they'll be coming down from, a precision landing might not be in the cards.

    Is the starship too large for their drone ships?

  21. It appears these will both be ditched in sea the while attempting ocean surface soft landings, much like early F9 landing attempts. The SH will ditch 20 miles in the gulf, but SS ditching north of Hawaii is a bit of a concern, if the SS sinks. There is the risk someone with sufficient retrieval gear could fish out a raptor engine from the ocean bottom.

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