SpaceX is working on its most powerful rocket yet, the Starship, a reusable vehicle for carrying both humans and other payloads to the moon and beyond. Recently, the company shared footage of the rocket being stacked at its Starbase development facility in Boca Chica, Texas, in preparation for the eventual first orbital test flight in the next months.
As reported by space.com, the Starship spacecraft and Super Heavy boosters are stacked by a launch tower referred to as Mechazilla, which uses two “chopstick” arms to hold and lift the parts into place. Once the rocket is ready for flight, the tower will also be responsible for catching the vehicle on its return to Earth.
Launch and catch tower stacking Starship at Starbase pic.twitter.com/KOpX8tZMHh
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) October 21, 2022
Last month, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hinted that the first orbital test of the Starship could happen as soon as October or November, saying on Twitter that, “November seems highly likely” for the test. “We will have two boosters & ships ready for orbital flight by then, with full stack production at roughly one every two months,” he went on to say.
The test of the Starship has been a long-delayed process, with issues such as a delayed review by the Federal Aviation Administration and a test of the Super Heavy booster engine which ended in an explosion earlier this summer.
The aim is for the Starship system to be used to carry payloads further than the company’s highly successful Falcon 9 rocket, which is used most often to transport both satellites and astronauts into low-Earth orbit. Starship is intended for NASA’s upcoming missions to the moon, with a variant called the Starship Human Landing System intended to be used to transfer astronauts from lunar orbit to the lunar surface, as well as potential future missions to Mars.
NASA also intends to use its own launch vehicle for the Artemis moon missions, the Space Launch System, though the first launch of this rocket has also been delayed due to, among other issues, Hurricane Ian which rolled over Florida and forced the delay of the planned launch.
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