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Watch SpaceX stack Starship rocket ahead of fourth test flight

SpaceX chief Elon Musk shared a video on Thursday showing the Starship rocket being stacked on the launchpad ahead of its fourth test flight.

The footage (below), which has been sped up, shows the spacecraft section being placed atop the booster at SpaceX’s Starbase launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The fully stacked vehicle stands a colossal 120 meters tall.

Stacking Starship

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 16, 2024

The Starship — comprising the first-stage Super Heavy booster and upper-stage Starship spacecraft — became the most powerful rocket ever to fly when it lifted off for the first time in April 2023. It packed 17 million pounds of thrust as it blasted skyward.

Earlier this week, Musk said he thinks the Starship’s fourth test flight will take place in three to five weeks. While the rocket may be ready to go, SpaceX is still waiting for a launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is continuing to investigate the third test flight, which took place two months ago.

While the first two Starship test flights ended after only a few minutes in due to anomalies with the vehicle, the third flight lasted almost 50 minutes and achieved many of the goals SpaceX had been aiming for. One of the immediate goals is to increase the frequency of Starship launches. With seven months between the first and second test flights, and four months between the second and third, a launch next month would be clear proof that SpaceX is heading the right direction on this front. The company is also hoping to get permission to launch the mighty rocket from the Kennedy Space Center, which would also pave the way for more frequent flights.

Eventually, the SpaceX engineers want to land both stages of the rocket after every launch so that they can be reused in a similar way to how it already recycles the first stage of its workhorse Falcon 9 rocket by landing it upright a few minutes after liftoff.

When fully tested and certified, SpaceX will use the Starship to carry crew and cargo to the moon. The company is also hoping to use the vehicle for the first crewed trip to Mars, possibly in the 2030s.

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