At SpaceX’s “Starbase” test site in the remote beach town of Boca Chica in southern Texas, workers have been laboring around the clock for days preparing for Starship’s first orbital flight. On Friday morning, they completed one of the final and most challenging assembly step: stacking the 150-foot-tall first stage SN20 on top of an even bigger booster, the 230-foot-tall Super Heavy B4.
Standing at nearly 400 feet tall, the completed Starship is the largest rocket ever built to go to space. Like SpaceX’s workhorse Falcon 9 rocket, both the Starship upper stage and Super Heavy booster are designed to be fully reusable for regularly transporting astronauts to the moon and Mars.
Before that happens, Starship has to reach Earth’s orbit first. SpaceX has successfully flown five upper stage prototypes—SN8, SN9, SN10, SN11 and SN15—to 10 kilometers (6.3 miles) in the sky. Only one of them landed in one piece.
Orbital flights will likely take several attempts to complete, too, CEO Elon Musk has said.
Musk is on site this week supervising the final preparation of Starship. On Tuesday, he tweeted a set of breathtaking photos of the Super Heavy booster being moved to the launch pad.
The launch date is still in flux. SpaceX originally aimed for July but had to postpone to allow more time for assembly. Now that the rocket is ready on the launch pad, liftoff is possible any day.