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SpaceX’s stunning Starship photos show launch rehearsal

SpaceX has shared a set of stunning photos taken during a launch rehearsal for the third test flight of its Starship vehicle, comprising the first-stage Super Heavy booster and the upper-stage Starship spacecraft.

“Starship completed its rehearsal for launch, loading more than 10 million pounds of propellant on Starship and Super Heavy and taking the flight-like countdown to T-10 seconds,” SpaceX said in a post on social media on Monday.

Starship completed its rehearsal for launch, loading more than 10 million pounds of propellant on Starship and Super Heavy and taking the flight-like countdown to T-10 seconds pic.twitter.com/1px7nyzhqQ

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 4, 2024

The rehearsal took place at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, and comes a week after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ended its mishap investigation into SpaceX’s second Starship test flight, which took place in November and — like the first test flight — ended in midair explosions minutes after liftoff.

With the rehearsal out of the way, SpaceX is now awaiting launch clearance from the FAA, which could come at any time.

When the 395-foot-tall (120-meter) Super Heavy leaves the launchpad, its 33 Raptor engines will blast out 17 million pounds of thrust. That’s almost double that of the next most powerful rocket — NASA’s Space Launch System — and more than twice that of the Saturn V, the rocket that powered NASA astronauts toward the moon five decades ago.

Despite losing the vehicles in the Starship’s first two test flights, SpaceX engineers learned a lot from the missions and, this time around, hope to get the Starship spacecraft into orbit for the first time.

NASA will be watching the third test flight closely as it wants to use the spaceflight system for the first crewed Artemis moon landing, which is scheduled to take place in 2026. For the mission, two astronauts will travel to lunar orbit aboard NASA’s SLS rocket and then transfer to the Starship spacecraft, which will take them to the lunar surface.

Future Starship missions could even involve the first human voyages to Mars, possibly in the 2030s.

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