SpaceX has revealed plans to commence regular launches of its new Starship spacecraft as soon as March 2022.
The rocket will carry the second-generation Starlink satellites, replacing the Falcon 9, which was initially expected to perform the task.
The decision was revealed in a company letter submitted to the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on January 7, 2022.
The letter requested FCC clearance for the particular Starship-specific configuration of satellites. Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 configuration was dropped.
“Much has changed in the intervening period, and SpaceX has exceeded its own expectations in the pace of developing both its Gen2 satellites and its Starship launch vehicle,” the letter notes.
“Accordingly, SpaceX hereby notifies the Commission that it will pursue Configuration 1 and abandon Configuration 2 proposed in the Amendment.”
This means that the entire fleet of Starlink Gen2 will be launched by Starship.
“SpaceX confirms here that it still intends to begin launching the Gen2 system as early as March 2022, likely beginning with the 43 degree or 53-degree inclined planes,” the letter continues.
SpaceX Starship, which is intended to become world’s largest and first fully reusable space launch system, is currently pending an environmental review, which the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) plans to complete on February 28, 2022.
After a series of test launches with explosive consequences, SpaceX achieved the first soft-landing of the Starship second stage in May 2021. The first orbital flight is expected in early March 2022, subject to the environmental review.