It's hard to write objectively about the rate at which the company makes progress. The advancement we're seeing at the company's Starbase site in South Texas is unparalleled. The rocket has a diameter of 9 meters and is 70 meters tall.
It has a greater thrust than the rocket used to launch NASA astronauts to the Moon. The technicians and engineers attached the engines to the rocket. There are 29 engines.
There are intricate plumbing lines and connections. This is the number of engines that Super Heavy will fly with for initial flight tests, although the final configuration is most likely to have 33 engines. This is possible as early as Tuesday.
There will be a bunch of static fire tests after this. With many valuable Raptor engines on the line, we can probably expect SpaceX to be fairly cautious with the test program for this vehicle. It appears as though the rapid assembly of Starship, its Super Heavy booster, and the orbital launch complex in South Texas will set up another high-stakes showdown between the FAA and SpaceX.
The company is going to be ready to fly, but there's no clarity on when the Federal Aviation Administration will complete its environmental review of the Star base location and approve orbital launches from the site. There will be a minimum of 30 days for public comments after the assessment is published. The FAA will make a determination on whether the proposed environmental mitigations will be enough, or if more work is required.
There is more information available on the FAA's website, but it is not likely that the required regulatory approvals will be received by the end of the year. It seems like a calculated effort to induce the FAA to move more quickly with the regulatory process if regulatory approval is not coming for months. A completed rocket sitting on a launch pad waiting for paperwork is not good.
NASA and the US Department of Defense have a vested interest in the success of Starship."