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SpaceX photos show important Starship preflight rehearsal

SpaceX's Starship rocket on the launchpad.
SpaceX’s Starship rocket sits on the launchpad at Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX

SpaceX is another step closer to the fourth test flight of the Starship, the world’s most powerful rocket.

Engineers completed a full launch rehearsal of the Starship — comprising the Super Heavy booster and upper-stage Starship spacecraft — at the Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on Monday, according to a post shared on social media.

Launch rehearsal for Flight 4 complete

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 20, 2024

The rehearsal involved fueling the 120-meter-tall rocket and going through all of the usual prelaunch procedures in what’s regarded as the final major test before a spaceflight.

While SpaceX seems pretty much ready to go, the team is still waiting for a launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is continuing to conduct an investigation into the third test flight that took place in March. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said recently that he expected the megarocket to launch on its next flight as early as June.

The Starship’s first two test flights ended abruptly in huge explosions minutes after launch, while the third effort fulfilled many of the mission goals during a spacecraft flight that lasted for around 45 minutes.

In an expansion of the Starship program, SpaceX wants to build two launch towers at Cape Canaveral in Florida, giving it a total of three launchpads for increased testing of the rocket. Musk said on Monday that SpaceX is still waiting for permission to get started on the Space Coast.

The Super Heavy booster packs a massive 17 million pounds of thrust at launch, more than double that of the Saturn V rocket that powered the first humans toward the moon in the Apollo missions five decades ago, and almost twice that of NASA’s next-generation SLS rocket, which flew for the first time in November 2022 and which will send the first Artemis astronauts on a flyby of the moon in the Artemis II mission currently scheduled for 2025.

Once fully tested and certified, SpaceX wants to use the Starship to fly cargo and crew to the moon as NASA prepares to build a permanent base on the lunar surface where astronauts can live and work for extended periods. NASA has already inked a deal with SpaceX to use a modified version of the Starship spacecraft to land two astronauts on the lunar surface in the Artemis III mission, which could take place as early as 2026.

The gargantuan rocket might also be used to power the first humans to Mars, though such an ambitious mission is still a ways off.

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