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[i]Musk, speaking at a joint meeting of the National Academies' Space Studies Board and Board on Physics and Astronomy Nov. 17, said the company was in the final preparations of both the vehicle and its launch site in Boca Chica, Texas, ahead of a campaign of as many as a dozen test flights in 2022.
"We're close to our initial orbital launch," he said. "The first orbital flight we're hoping to do in January." Later in the discussion, he revised that, saying that flight would take place "in January or perhaps February."
That flight, as outlined in regulatory filings, would place the Starship in orbit, but the vehicle would complete less than one orbit before reentering and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean about 100 kilometers the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Both the Starship vehicle and its Super Heavy booster are now complete, he said, and the launch pad and tower should be complete this month. A "bunch of tests" will follow in December. ...
Musk later estimated SpaceX would attempt a dozen Starship launches next year, and possibly more. "The engine build rate is currently the biggest constraint on how many vehicles we can make," he said, given that Super Heavy requires 29 Raptor engines currently, and later 33, along with six on Starship. The company is building a new factory in Texas for high-volume production of Raptor.
If SpaceX is successful to recover and reuse Starship during those test flights, operational missions could begin in 2023. "We intend to complete the test flight program next year, which means that it's probably ready for valuable payloads — not for testing, basically, but actual real payloads — in 2023. So quite soon."[/i]
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