SpaceX launches Super Heavy Booster 4 in preparation for the company’s first orbital Starship launch.
SpaceX on Tuesday launched the rocket booster the company plans to use to launch the first Starship orbital flight, and Elon Musk shared photos of the giant vehicle.
A look into SpaceX’s high bay after the company installed mesh ribs on Super Heavy Booster 4.
Musk’s company conducted several brief test flights of Starship prototypes over the past year, but reaching orbit is the next step in testing the rocket. The company announced its plan in May for the flight, which is scheduled to depart from the company’s Texas facility and land off the coast of Hawaii.
Spaceship prototypes are about 160 feet tall, or about the size of a 16-story building, and made of stainless steel – they represent the early version of the rocket that Musk unveiled in 2019.
The rocket starts with a “Super Heavy” booster, which makes up the lower half of the rocket and is around 70 meters high. Together, Starship and Super Heavy will be nearly 400 feet tall when stacked for launch.
The company launched Super Heavy Booster 4 on Tuesday, with the Starship prototype 20 expected to launch on top.
SpaceX worked quickly to get Starship and the Super Heavy booster ready for the orbital flight test, although a local environmental review by the Federal Aviation Administration must be completed prior to launch.
A closer look at the four grid ribs on the Super Heavy Booster, which guide the rocket back to earth after a launch and help it to land.
The company is developing Starship to launch cargo and humans on missions to the moon and Mars.
While SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship fully reusable – a rocket more like an airliner, with short turnaround times between flights where the only major cost is the fuel are.
29 Raptor engines
A look at the base of Super Heavy Booster 4 shortly after SpaceX engineers installed 29 Raptor rocket engines.
A closer look under the base of Super Heavy Booster 4 on the 29 Raptor engines.
Overnight on Sunday, the company installed 29 of the Raptor engines that power the Super Heavy booster, with Musk himself in attendance to witness the company’s progress.
Musk walks near a Raptor rocket engine installed in SpaceX’s Super Heavy Booster 4 with his son.
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