SpaceX has taken another milestone in its fully reusable Starship launch system: it has stacked the Starship spacecraft itself on top of a prototype of its Super Heavy booster, which itself is loaded with a full set of 29 engines. Raptor rocket, and the Starship on top has six itself. The stacked spacecraft now represents the tallest assembled rocket ever developed in history.
This stacking, which occurred at SpaceX’s South Texas development site, is an important development because it is the first time that the two pieces of the complete Starship system have come together into one. This is the configuration that will be used to launch the next Starship prototype on its test mission which will hopefully reach orbit.
Taken together, the massive combined launch system grows to almost 400 feet tall (about 390 feet, to be more precise), and combined with the orbital launch support it sits on, the whole is about 475 feet high, this which is larger than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The stacking itself is impressive, but don’t expect it to last: the likely next step is for the two halves of the launch system to be separated again, with the two going through more work, analysis, and more work. of tests before reassembly for the possible test of real orbital launch.
As to when the orbital launch test will actually take place, it’s unclear at this time. Disassembly, testing and reassembly will take some time, but the company is still aiming for that to happen before the end of the year.
Stream above from NASA Space flight.
Update: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has revealed more details on the next stage of the Starship system after the two halves split. In a tweet, he said the next step for the system would be to add the final heat shield tiles to the Starship spacecraft – a task about 98% complete, he added. in a tweet. Other items on the task list are adding thermal protection to the booster engines, ground propellant storage tanks, and a QD arm for the ship.
Of course, that’s not all SpaceX needs to do to prepare for the Starship flight: receive a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration. This cannot happen until the regulator has completed an environmental assessment, a process that could take months.