SpaceX has made another major breakthrough with its fully reusable Starship launch system: It has assembled the Starship spacecraft itself atop a prototype of its super-heavy booster, which is loaded with a complete set of 29 Raptor rocket engines, and the spacecraft is on top of six itself. The stacked spacecraft now represents the longest composite rocket ever developed in history.
This stacking, which took place at SpaceX’s development site in South Texas, is a significant development because it is the first time that the two components of a complete Starship system have been combined together. This is the configuration that will be used to launch the next model spacecraft on the test mission that we hope will reach orbit.
Taken together, the massive combined launch system reaches nearly 400 feet (about 390 feet, to be more precise), and along with the orbital launch pad on which it rests, the whole thing is about 475 feet high, which is taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The stacking itself is impressive, but don’t expect it to last: the next possible step is to separate the two halves of the launch system again, with more work, analysis, and testing done before reassembly in preparation for an actual orbital launch test.
As for when the orbital launch test will actually take place, it is currently unclear. Disassembly, testing and reassembly will take some time, but the company certainly still aims to get that done before the end of the year.
stream above from NASAS space flight.
Updated: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has revealed more details about what’s next for the Starship system after the two halves were separated. In a tweet, he said the upcoming system will add the final heat-shield tiles on the Starship spacecraft — a task nearly 98% complete, he added. in a tweet. Other items on the mission list add thermal protection for the booster engines, ground fuel storage tanks, and the ship’s QD boom.
Of course, that’s not all that SpaceX needs to prepare for the spacecraft’s flight: obtaining a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration. That cannot happen until the regulator has completed the environmental assessment, a process that can take months.