According to a forum post published by NASASpaceflight Managing Editor Chris Bergin, SpaceX’s next untethered Starhopper test flight will likely be the prototype’s last as the company begins to prepare for the first flights of its “Mk1” Starship prototype.
Meanwhile, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk says that the company is working with the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to secure regulatory approval for Starhopper’s final flight, a significantly more ambitious 200m (650 ft) hop scheduled no earlier than August 15th due to permitting delays.
SpaceX has been publicly planning Starhopper’s 200m hop since the vehicle successfully completed its first test flight – a 20m hop – on July 25th, and CEO Elon Musk stated on July 28th that next flight was scheduled as little as “a week or two” from then, NET August 4-11.
It appears that SpaceX now finds itself partially stuck in the mire of FAA’s often burdensome regulatory apparatus, apparently to such an extent that more than two weeks is not enough time to hammer out some sort of license for Starhopper’s 200m flight test.
Regardless, the FAA will likely eventually give SpaceX permission for Starhopper’s 200m hop test – it’s more a matter of how long the company will have to wait and whether they will actually decide to wait.
This is because – according to NASASpaceflight.com managing editor Chris Bergin – SpaceX intends for Starhopper’s next flight to also be the prototype’s last.
By all appearances, retiring Starhopper after a scant two untethered flight tests would be an extremely positive sign that SpaceX’s Mk1 and Mk2 Starships are making major progress towards their own flight debuts.