Elon Musk shows off massive Starship, the world's tallest rocket, ahead of SpaceX update

Elon Musk's SpaceX has reassembled the world's tallest rocket ahead of a highly anticipated update on the company's Starship program in South Texas. 

In a series of Twitter posts late Wednesday and today (Feb. 9 and 10), Musk showed off new views of the Starship rocket as it was attached its massive Super Heavy booster at the company's Starbase facility near Boca Chica Village. Altogether, the Starship-Super Heavy duo stands 395 feet tall (120 m). That's more than 30 feet (9 m) taller than NASA's massive Saturn V moon rocket.

Musk posted the photos overnight (opens in new tab) with no comment, apparently to let the epic scope of the sight sink in as the billionaire prepares to give a major update tonight on SpaceX's Starship program. SpaceX is expected to webcast the Starship update, which you'll be able to watch here if it's available, beginning at about 9 p.m. EST (0200 GMT).

SpaceX's Starship is a stainless-steel rocket that stands 165 feet (50 m) tall and is designed to carry astronauts on deep-space missions to the moon, Mars or beyond. NASA has tapped Starship to land its Artemis astronauts in the moon in 2025 or thereabouts, and SpaceX has already sold one flight around the moon with the vehicle to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa. 

The company will launch the massive rocket from its Starbase facility using Super Heavy, itself a giant rocket that stands 230 feet (70 m) tall.

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The Starship currently on SpaceX's test pad is called SN20, denoting its role as SpaceX's 20th Starship prototype. The Super Heavy is known as Booster 4. Together, the stacked rocket is expected to launch SpaceX's first orbital Starship flight this year. 

Exactly when that orbital Starship flight will lift off is unclear, though Musk may shed some light on that timing during his presentation tonight. The Federal Aviation Administration is currently conducting an environmental review for SpaceX's Starship launches from Starbase. That review, which must be complete before any orbital launch, is expected to conclude on Feb. 28. 

SN20 and Booster 4 have been fully assembled once before — back in August 2021, when SpaceX apparently wanted to get some stacking practice at Starbase.

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Tariq Malik
Editor-in-Chief

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of Space.com and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became Space.com's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining Space.com, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award (opens in new tab) for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at Space.com and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast (opens in new tab) with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network (opens in new tab). To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik (opens in new tab).