SpaceX’s first real Super Heavy booster has arrived at the launch site.
A few days ago, technologists 29 Raptor engines installed On a super heavy vehicle known as Booster 4 at SpaceX’s Starbase, near the village of Boca Chica, South Texas. Today (August 3), the company rolled the 230-foot (70 m) Booster 4 from its construction facility to the launch site, just a few kilometers down the road.
SpaceX He will soon begin subjecting the Booster 4 to a series of compression and engine tests. If all goes well with those trials, the rocket will be ready for an orbital launch attempt, which could happen within the next few months.
Super Heavy is the first stage of StarshipSpaceX is developing a two-stage, fully reusable transportation system to transport people and cargo to the Moon, Mars and other distant destinations. NASA recently Selected spacecraft As the manned lander for its Artemis program, which aims to establish a sustainable human presence on and around the Moon by the end of 2020.
The upper stage of the Starship is a 165-foot (50 m) spacecraft also known, somewhat confusingly, as the Starship. The final Starship spacecraft will have six Raptors, and the final version of the Super Heavy will likely be powered by 32 engines, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk He said.
Spacecraft models have been launched before. Last May, for example, a three-engine vehicle known as the SN15 (“Serial Number 15”) flew to a maximum altitude of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers) and descended For a safe landing back on earth.
Last month, SpaceX conducted engine tests on the predecessor of the Booster 4, and Three booster raptor 3However, the Super Heavy has not been launched yet. Booster 4 will change that, if all goes according to plan. SpaceX plans to launch the rocket, on top of the SN20 Starship prototype, from Starbase on an Unmanned Orbital Test Mission.
Shortly after launch, Booster 4 will take off in the Gulf of Mexico, about 20 miles (32 km) offshore. SN20 will power itself into orbit, complete one loop around our planet and descend into the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian island of Kauai, about 90 minutes after liftoff.
It’s not clear when the Booster 4 and SN20 will fly. Even if the duo sailed through all of their pre-launch checks and testing, logistical roadblocks might keep them steady. For example, the US Federal Aviation Administration is implementing a file Environmental audit of Starship launchesAnd we don’t know when that will end.
Mike Wall is the author of “Abroad(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustration by Karl Tate), a book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.