Potheads & space geeks around the world are anxiously awaiting the first launch of SpaceX’s Starship & Super Heavy rocket, as the company says they are still GO to try again on April 20.
Liftoff from Starbase in south Texas is targeting 8:28am Central time, with a launch window extending to 9:30am. You can watch the livestream (below) tomorrow, which will start ~45 minutes before liftoff.
As stated previously on AmericaSpace by Ben Evans, at 394 ft tall the enormous Super Heavy & Starship stack stands taller than both the Apollo Saturn V and SLS Artemis. At launch it will become the largest and most powerful rocket to ever fly, equipped with 33 Raptor engines that will push 16.7 million pounds (7.5 million kilograms) of thrust to lift the colossal vehicle off Earth.
Testing has been going on for a long time now, but there is only so much they can learn with ground tests & short flight hops. SpaceX has conducted multiple sub-orbital flight tests of Starship, validating its design and “proving Starship can fly through the subsonic phase of entry, before re-lighting its engines and flipping to a vertical configuration for landing”, according to SpaceX.
The company has also conducted numerous increasingly complex static test fires of the rocket, including a full-duration 31 Raptor engine test – the largest number of simultaneous rocket engine ignitions ever done.
Now it’s time to test the full integrated ground support and launch system on a real launch, orbit and re-entry.
“With a test such as this, success is measured by how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship”, says SpaceX.
The company won’t be landing the rocket or Starship for this first flight test. Instead they want to gather flight data to further evolve the development.
According to SpaceX, when fully operational, the Starship/Super Heavy will be capable of lifting up to 330,000 pounds (150,000 kilograms) of payload to low-Earth orbit in its fully reusable configuration. And if the booster is to be dumped, it can launch as much as 500,000 pounds (250,000 kilograms). Starship will be able to transport up to 100 crew too.
NASA & the politicians of course are all watching closely, as the agency has contracted Starship to land the first Artemis crews on the moon later this decade.
“Returning astronauts to the Moon to learn, live, and work is a bold endeavor. With multiple planned landers, from SpaceX and future partners, NASA will be better positioned to accomplish the missions of tomorrow: conducting more science on the surface of the Moon than ever before and preparing for crewed missions to Mars,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
NASA awarded SpaceX over $1 billion to develop its Starship human landing system to meet NASA’s requirements for long-term human exploration of the Moon under Artemis.
SpaceX will also have to fly an uncrewed demonstration mission to the Moon prior to Artemis III, before NASA will put their astronauts onboard for a moon landing.
Elon’s vision for Super Heavy & Starship is a rapid reusable heavy-lift deep-space booster & spacecraft that can fly enormous payloads of cargo & crews to & from the moon. Or Mars. Or Asteroids. Or anywhere else on Earth for that matter. Why fly 20+ hours to the other side of the world, when you can take a Starship in an hour?
Starship could open a very exciting future for space exploration, but it all starts tomorrow with the first orbital flight test.