SpaceX’s Starship Super Heavy rocket returns to launch pad (photos)
SpaceX has rolled the latest version of its massive Super Heavy rocket back to the launch pad.
The “Booster 7” Super Heavy rocket prototype moved to a launch pad at Starbase, SpaceX‘s South Texas facility, overnight on Friday (Aug. 5) for testing, which is apparently happening today (Aug. 8). You can head over to NASA Spaceflight’s YouTube stream (opens in new tab) if you want to see what’s happening live.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk shared the arrival milestone in tweets from Starbase on Saturday (Aug. 6). “At launch pad,” he tweeted (opens in new tab) with a photo, adding, “I love the smell of hydraulic fuel in the morning.”
SpaceX is working to get Booster 7 and its Starship upper-stage spacecraft ready for the program’s first-ever orbital test flight, which the company aims to launch in the next few months.
Starship includes a first-stage booster, Super Heavy, and an upper stage vehicle called Starship that is 165 feet (50 meters) tall.
When fully stacked, Starship and Super Heavy stand 395 feet (120 m) tall, making the combination the world’s tallest rocket. SpaceX plans to use the stacked system to send humans and cargo to the moon for NASA, then move on to Mars.
That said, Starship has completed just a few high-altitude test flights to date, and the system hasn’t taken to the air since May 2021.
SpaceX has been dealing with hurdles both technical and regulatory. For example, a recently issued environmental assessment by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires SpaceX to complete 75 actions to mitigate Starship’s impact on the surrounding area, which is a biodiversity hotspot.
SpaceX still needs a launch license from the FAA before sending Starship around the world on its ambitious orbital flight, which in turn, requires the company to address all the environmental issues raised in the agency review.
“The environmental review must be completed along with public safety, national security, and other analyses before a decision on whether to grant a launch license can be made. The license application is still pending,” the FAA wrote (opens in new tab) of the matter on June 13.