Starship Rocket Moves To Launch Pad As Historic SpaceX Debut Approaches


The first orbital flight of the rocket that Elon Musk promised several years ago would help build a city on Mars could finally be as little as a week away.

Over the weekend, SpaceX teams at the company’s Starbase rocket development facility in south Texas moved the first stage booster known as Super Heavy in place for launch.

On Monday, propellant loading tests were conducted on the booster. If all goes well, we could see the key next step towards launch, which would be the lifting of the Starship itself on top of Super Heavy to give us the full stack vehicle.

Ars Technica reports this could be the final round of testing before the Federal Aviation Administration gives SpaceX the final green light to send Starship beyond Earth’s atmosphere for the first time, perhaps as soon as April 10.

A handful of early Starship prototypes made a series of high-altitude test flights in late 2020 and early 2021 without actually making it to space. All but one of these tests ended in a fiery crash landing. The last attempt stuck the landing, and that’s the last time we’ve seen Starship off the ground. We still have yet to see Super Heavy launch at all.

Starship’s first orbital flight has been the subject of a more than 18-month review process led by the FAA, which said last June that it would allow the demonstration flight to move forward, but only once a list of 75 changes and other conditions had been met.

It’s appeared for several weeks now that the big day is finally drawing closer, as SpaceX has completed a number of key milestones over the past two months, including a “wet dress rehearsal” walking through all the steps leading up to launch and a mostly successful test firing of Super Heavy — 31 of the booster’s 33 Raptor engines ignited and fired as expected. Musk later tweeted that even sans two engines the vehicle would still have enough power to make it to orbit.

Musk has also been preparing the world for potential hiccups and “guaranteeing excitement” for Starship’s first orbital flight.

MORE FROM FORBESElon Musk ‘Guaranteeing Excitement’ For Starship Launch In Coming Weeks

The mission is just a test, after all, and there is the possibility that it doesn’t rapidly disassembles itself in an explosive fashion during launch, its ascent to space or just about any other time during the flight, really.

While Starship’s earlier test flights within the atmosphere saw it return for an attempted landing at Starbase, this first orbital flight will see it shoot for a splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii after a short visit to space.

SpaceX, Musk and others have high hopes and big plans for Starship. In addition to those more distant dreams of making humanity multiplanetary, NASA is also planning to utilize Starship for its Artemis missions to the moon in the coming years. Even more near term, SpaceX is eager to began utilizing the larger, more powerful rocket for its many upcoming satellite launches, including for its own Starlink broadband constellation.



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