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SpaceX stacks mighty Super Heavy rocket as it eyes February test launch

SpaceX has shared a video showing its next-generation spaceflight vehicle being stacked on the launchpad ahead of its first test flight.

The footage (below) shows the Starship spacecraft being placed atop the mighty Super Heavy booster at SpaceX’s Starbase launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas.

Ship 24 stacked on Super Heavy Booster 7 at Starbase in Texas

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) January 10, 2023

The test flight has faced a number of delays, but SpaceX chief Elon Musk said on Sunday that it could take place as soon as next month.

“We have a real shot at late February,” Musk said in a tweet, adding that a launch attempt in March “appears highly likely.”

When the Super Heavy finally lifts off, it’ll create 17 million pounds of thrust at launch, making it the most powerful rocket ever to have flown.

The record is currently held by NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which created 8.8 million pounds of thrust when it lifted off for the first time in November in the Artemis I mission that sent an uncrewed Orion capsule to the moon.

Other powerful rockets include the Saturn V rocket, which propelled the Apollo astronauts toward the moon five decades ago and was capable of around 7.6 million pounds of thrust.

SpaceX wants to use the 394-foot-tall Super Heavy and Starship for crewed missions to the moon, and even Mars. Just as SpaceX is able to reuse the first stage of its dependable Falcon 9 rocket, both the Super Heavy and Starship have been designed to fly multiple times, enabling SpaceX to cut costs while increasing its launch frequency. However, for the upcoming test flight, both parts will come down in the Pacific Ocean.

SpaceX is one of many commercial companies partnering with NASA on its Artemis space exploration program, and part of its current plan is to use a modified version of the Starship spacecraft to land the first woman and first person of color on the moon in the next few years in the highly anticipated Artemis III mission.

The Super Heavy and Starship is also set to perform the first all-civilian moon flyby after a Japanese billionaire entrepreneur bought nine seats for the dearMoon mission. A concrete date for the ambitious mission has yet to be set.

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