SpaceX is moving toward the first test of its next-generation Super Heavy rocket that will carry its Starship spacecraft into space.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on Thursday tweeted a photo (below) from SpaceX’s test site in Boca Chica, Texas, showing for the first time a stacked Super Heavy rocket, known as the BN1 prototype.
For scale, check out the worker at the top of the crane, about halfway up the outside of the 70-meter-tall rocket.
First Super Heavy Booster pic.twitter.com/0K5QPsEbbt
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 18, 2021
SpaceX is targeting July 2021 for the first orbital test flight of both the Super Heavy rocket and Starship, though that date could slip.
The BN1 prototype in the photo above will undertake ground testing only, paving the way for a BN2 orbital flight sometime this year. The BN3 prototype should be the first to carry the 50-meter-tall Starship to space.
A simulation created by a space fan shows how the Super Heavy rocket and Starship might look when they eventually get to launch together. Musk himself commented that the depiction was “very close to [the] actual expected flight.”
When built and tested, SpaceX says Super Heavy will become “the world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed,” with 31 Raptor engines pushing it skyward.
Like SpaceX’s tried and tested first-stage Falcon 9 booster, the aim is to develop Super Heavy and Starship as a fully reusable system, with both sections able to land back on the ground after launch.
Whereas the Super Heavy rocket would return to Earth shortly after launch, Starship could potentially land on another planet before landing back on Earth at the end of a lengthy mission. The Starship is being designed to carry cargo and a crew of up to 100 people. You read that right — 100 people.
Starship is currently undergoing testing, with the company losing two prototypes in heavy landings following high-altitude flights before it managed to nail a third landing attempt earlier this month. However, minutes after safely touching down, the booster exploded in a ball of flames, destroying the vehicle in the process. No one at the launch site was hurt in the incident.
A fourth high-altitude flight test using the SN11 Starship prototype is expected to take place any day now.
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