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I have seen mention that the Starship will need to have a track record of a certain number of flights before it can carry people. I suppose NASA sets this number. I don't know if it's an absolute number or approximate.

How many nominal cargo flights in a row will Starship have to achieve before it is considered safe enough to carry people?

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    $\begingroup$ I think as it stands the HLS Starship only needs one demonstration lunar landing before Artemis III crewed landing, though humans won't launch from Earth in it $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2022 at 11:31
  • $\begingroup$ Yeah, HLS is significantly simpler than Earth Starship. No booster, no stage separation, no atmospheric re-entry, belly flop, flip'n'burn, or chopstick catch. Landing legs FTW! $\endgroup$ Mar 31, 2022 at 19:41

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I have seen mention that the Starship will need to have a track record of a certain number of flights before it can carry people.

That is the current plan. Due to the way Starship is developed, it is not really possible to follow the "traditional" route of "Documenting every single bit of the vehicle, spend several years for experts carefully analyzing every bit of the documentation, then approving it" because Starship is evolving too fast for that – by the time the review is finished, the design will have changed.

Compare that to the Space Shuttle which had crew on it for the very first flight. It never had an uncrewed test flight (unlike, e.g. Buran, Crew Dragon, or Starliner).

I suppose NASA sets this number.

NASA has nothing to do with it. The first crewed launch of Starship, at least according to the current plan, is going to be Polaris 3. The Polaris Program is a completely private program which has nothing to do with NASA or any other government agency.

Therefore, NASA has no say in it. NASA does have a say for Artemis 3, of course. Artemis 3 is going to be much simpler than Polaris 3: there is not going to be a Superheavy booster, there is not going to be a bellyflop and flip'n'burn, there is not going to be a chopstick catch. Just plain old propulsive landing on good ole' landing legs.

I don't know if it's an absolute number or approximate.

How many nominal cargo flights in a row will Starship have to achieve before it is considered safe enough to carry people?

Enough to convince SpaceX's safety team to sign off on it, the FAA to issue a launch license, and Jared Isaacman's wife to allow him to climb into it.

We don't know how many that will be. Elon Musk has said a couple of years ago that SpaceX is going to perform "hundreds" of cargo flights before flying crew. He has also said that Starship will fly to orbit in March 2019 and fly crew in 2020.

In the latest interviews with Jared Isaacman, if you read between the lines, it didn't sound like he needs hundreds of flights to be convinced.

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  • $\begingroup$ I'm downvoting this because "The Polaris Program is a completely private program which has nothing to do with NASA or any other government agency." is incorrect. The FAA "issues commercial space licenses, verifies launch or reentry vehicles meant to carry humans operate as intended and provides regulation of flight crew qualifications and training. The FAA also performs safety inspections and safely integrates commercial space operations into the National Airspace System." faa.gov/space/human_spaceflight $\endgroup$ Apr 2, 2022 at 20:25

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