In a few short hours, SpaceX will attempt to fly its fully integrated Starship launch system for the first time from the company’s massive base on Texas’s southeastern coast.
While SpaceX has conducted a number of suborbital tests of the Starship upper stage from its base in Texas, this will be the first time that a fully integrated Starship and Super Heavy booster will fly together. The reusable launch system, which is the most powerful rocket ever built, is designed to carry an enormous amount of mass to orbit, the moon and even to Mars.
Starship, which stands at nearly 394 feet, will use 33 Raptor engines to generate 16.7 million pounds of thrust at lift-off. The entire test flight will last around 90 minutes, with both the booster and the upper stage falling back to Earth in an ocean splashdown. SpaceX is not planning on recovering either stage.
SpaceX has already amassed billions in contracts for the Starship system, and a number of private human spaceflight missions. Chief amongst these is NASA’s $2.9 billion Human Landing System contract, which will see Starship retooled to land humans on the moon. Initiatives like dearMOON, headed by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, will also use Starship to send a crew of nine on a lunar mission.
The launch window opens at 8:00 AM EST and will run for 150 minutes. If SpaceX has to scrub the launch, they’ll have backup opportunities throughout the week and weekend.
As SpaceX CEO Elon Musk put it in a tweet about the flight test in February: “Success is far from certain, but excitement is guaranteed!”