SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has confirmed that the Starship is fully stacked and ready to launch on its maiden orbital flight.
Starship, comprising the Starship upper stage and Super Heavy first stage, will become the most powerful rocket ever to fly when it lifts off from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, possibly in the coming days.
“Starship is stacked and ready to launch next week, pending regulatory approval,” Musk tweeted on Thursday.
The all-important approval is in the hands of the Federal Aviation Administration, with SpaceX clearly hoping to receive it anytime now.
In a separate tweet that included photos of the stacked rocket on the pad, SpaceX said it was looking to perform a “launch rehearsal,” with lift-off coming shortly after.
SpaceX will soon embark on final preparations for the uncrewed launch of the 120-meter-tall rocket, whose 33 Raptor 2 engines will pack a colossal 17 million pounds of thrust when it roars skyward, nearly twice that of the current most powerful rocket, NASA’s Space Launch System, which flew for the first time in November last year.
While both sections of the vehicle are designed to land back on Earth and be used over and over for multiple flights, the upcoming test mission will see the Super Heavy booster and Starship come down in the ocean.
NASA has already inked deals with SpaceX to use a modified version of the Starship to land astronauts on the moon. The first of these missions is Artemis III, the highly anticipated voyage that will see the first woman and first person of color set foot on the lunar surface — possibly in 2025 — in what will also be the first crewed moon landing since NASA’s Apollo missions five decades ago.
There’s a lot of excitement around the Starship’s first orbital flight, though Musk recently acknowledged that a lot could go wrong.
Speaking during an appearance at a Morgan Stanley conference last month, the SpaceX chief said the rocket only has a 50% chance of reaching orbit.
“I’m not saying it will get to orbit, but I am guaranteeing excitement. Won’t be boring,” he said, adding: “I think it’s got, I don’t know, hopefully about a 50% chance of reaching orbit.”
Musk said that SpaceX is currently building additional Starship rockets and put the chances of one of these reaching orbit at a more promising 80%.
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