New NASA OIG report shows Starship Orbital Flight Test to take place in Q2 of Fiscal Year 2022

While the report is focused on the management of NASA’s Artemis program missions, the report revealed a lot about SpaceX’s Starship timeline, Including the long-awaited Starship Orbital Flight Test to take place in Q2 of Fiscal Year 2022.

Updated to reflect the date is for the fiscal year of 2022, not the calendar year 2022. Fiscal years are one quarter ahead of the calendar year.

Why does it contradict Elon’s tweets?

Many of you who follow SpaceX’s Starship development in Starbase will know that CEO Elon Musk has shared countless times on social media that the orbital launch will be sooner. However, these dates historically have been very far off and shouldn’t be given much weight.

Internally these dates drive morale to keep the company productive and continue its trailblazing speeds. However, Q2 of this fiscal year (Q1 of next year) seems way more likely than dates given in the past.

SpaceX Starship OIG report timeline

NASA’s Office of Inspector General conducted an audit of NASA’s management of the Artemis program mission one through three. As to how they did is a story for another day.

Inside, the report detailed NASA’s selection and the timeline for the Human Landing System Option A, aka Lunar Starship, showing how SpaceX will get Starship ready for Artemis III. The first step, of course, is launching Starship on its Orbital Flight Test, stated to be Q2 of FY 2022 on the timeline. Other milestones are a propellant transfer test for the end of 2022, a long-duration flight test in 2023, and an uncrewed lunar landing in 2024.

Now that Blue Origin’s protest and lawsuit are over, something stated not accounted for in these dates, we can finally see SpaceX and NASA’s plans to validate Starship’s design as the agency’s Human Landing System.

FAA’s Environmental Assessment due by the end of the 2021

The biggest thorn in SpaceX’s side for launching Starship orbital is the FAA’s Environmental Assessment. Without the FAA’s approval, no launches can take place from Starbase, and if they do, it could cause legal and regulatory issues for SpaceX in the future.

Monday, the FAA announced that they are aiming for December 31 to finish Starship’s EA. This is when we will find out if actions will be needed by SpaceX to mitigate its environmental impact. If an Environmental Impact Statement is needed, then Q2 could even be off the table.

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