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SpaceX will attempt Starship orbital test in March, says Elon Musk

The company first filed paperwork for the flight in 2021.

REUTERS/Veronica G. Cardenas

SpaceX could attempt to complete Starship’s long-awaited orbital test flight as early as next month, according to Elon Musk. Responding on Saturday to a question from one of his Twitter followers, Musk said the private space firm is targeting a March launch attempt. “If remaining tests go well, we will attempt a Starship launch next month,” he wrote.

While the date of Starship’s orbital test flight has been a moving target for much of the past year and a half, there’s reason to believe next month could see the rocket finally fly. In January, Starship successfully completed its first-ever stacked fueling test. The “wet dress rehearsal” saw SpaceX load both stages of the vehicle with more than 10 million pounds of liquid oxygen and methane fuel. Critically, the company also ran through some of the countdown procedures it will need to complete on launch day.

Among the tests SpaceX still needs to carry out, the most crucial is a static firing of all of the Super Heavy stage’s 33 Raptor engines. To date, the company has never ignited more than 14 of the engines at once. That will need to change for SpaceX to obtain the go-ahead for an orbital test flight from the Federal Aviation Administration. As of the end of January, there were signs SpaceX was preparing to carry out the static test fire as early as the first week of February. That didn't happen. However, Musk's comment would seem to indicate SpaceX will attempt the test sooner rather than later.