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Watch SpaceX stack its Starship rocket in super-quick time

SpaceX has shared a cool video showing its robotic “Mechazilla” launch tower stacking its Starship rocket ahead of the vehicle’s third test flight.

SpaceX sped up the video (below) to show the stacking process in super-quick time. As the footage shows, the tower at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, uses two arms to grab the rocket’s upper stage before carrying it to the top of the first-stage booster. The company also shared some spectacular images showing the rocket at the launch site on the coast of southern Texas.

Starship team is preparing for a full launch rehearsal ahead of Flight 3 pic.twitter.com/djP5cWzhCL

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 13, 2024

The Starship is the most powerful rocket ever to fly and comprises the first-stage Super Heavy rocket and the upper-stage Starship spacecraft. The 120-meter-tall (395 feet) Starship vehicle creates an astonishing 17 million pounds of thrust at launch, more than double that of NASA’s Saturn V moon rocket and nearly twice that of its new Space Launch System rocket.

Earlier this week, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said he’s hopeful of launching the Starship on its third uncrewed test flight in early March. The precise launch date depends on a flight permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is still investigating the Starship’s second flight in November.

The first two test flights, which took place in April 2023, failed shortly after liftoff. The second flight, however, managed to improve upon the maiden effort by achieving stage separation. SpaceX hopes to reach another milestone with the third flight by getting the Starship spacecraft to orbit.

The initial test flights — when they succeed — will see both parts of the rocket come down in the sea, but the long-term aim is to land the Super Heavy booster upright in the same way that SpaceX now regularly lands its workhorse Falcon 9 booster. Such a system enables a single booster to be flown multiple times, dramatically reducing mission costs.

The Starship spacecraft is designed to land not only on Earth but also on other celestial bodies. Indeed, a modified version of the Starship will transport NASA’s Artemis III astronauts from lunar orbit to the moon’s surface in a mission currently scheduled for September 2026. SpaceX could also use the Starship system to carry crew and cargo to Mars, possibly in the 2030s.

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Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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