SpaceX has shared a trio of awesome night shots showing its Super Heavy booster — the most powerful rocket ever built — being rolled to the launchpad ahead of its third test flight.
Look closely at the image above and you’ll see that the transporter carrying the 233-foot-tall (71 meters) booster is bedecked with Christmas decorations, including colorful lights, a tree, and a Santa Claus model. And for scale, take a look at the human captured in the extreme right of the frame.
In the other two images you’ll also see SpaceX’s “Gateway to Mars” sign, a mark of the company’s intent to use its facility in Boca Chica, Texas, for the first human flight to Mars, possibly in the 2030s.
Flight 3 vehicles on the pad at Starbase for testing ahead of Starship's next launch pic.twitter.com/caIuyE6kCj
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 18, 2023
The first-stage Super Heavy rocket and second-stage Starship spacecraft are known collectively as the Starship.
Following booster tests at the pad, the spacecraft, which is visible in the two images on the right, will be lifted and placed on the top of the Super Heavy in preparation for flight.
Packing about 17 million pounds of thrust at launch, the vehicle is the most powerful rocket in operation today. Starship has already taken two semi-successful test flights, the most recent of which took place in November.
In both, the mighty rocket cleared the launchpad but exploded a short while later. In the first flight in April, the rocket failed to achieve stage separation, at which point the spacecraft disconnects from the booster, but in November’s mission, the feat was successfully completed. However, a short while later, the Super Heavy booster blew up, and the Starship also exploded before it was able to reach orbit.
SpaceX hopes to achieve a successful third flight that sees the Starship reach orbit before coming down off the coast of Hawaii.
A date for the next test mission has yet to be confirmed. SpaceX is currently waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to complete an investigation into the second flight. Only then will it consider granting a launch permit to SpaceX.
Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, said last month that the Starship would be ready to fly again before the end of this year, though with the FAA’s investigation ongoing, this looks increasingly unlikely.
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