SpaceX stacks Starship megarocket ahead of 4th test flight (video, photos)

SpaceX continues gearing up for the fourth test flight of its Starship megarocket, which could be just around the corner.

Technicians recently stacked the Starship rocket that will conduct the flight, placing its "Ship" upper stage atop its "Super Heavy" first-stage booster on the orbital launch mount at SpaceX's Starbase site in South Texas. The company posted a video and photos of this operation, which was performed using the "chopstick" arms of Starbase's giant launch tower, on X yesterday (May 15).

"Full stack of Flight 4 Starship," SpaceX wrote in the post. 

Related: Relive SpaceX Starship's 3rd flight test in breathtaking photos

SpaceX stacks its Flight 4 Starship vehicle on the orbital launch mount at its Starbase site in South Texas. This is a still from a video SpaceX posted to X on May 15, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Starship stacking is a dramatic and impressive sight. There's a striking juxtaposition of mechanical and natural beauty, for example, as a gleaming silver rocket rises amid shrub-studded seaside dunes. And that 400-foot-tall (122 meters) rocket is bigger and more powerful than any other launch vehicle humanity has ever built.

The stacking follows earlier testing performed separately with Flight 4's Super Heavy and Ship. SpaceX has already ignited the Raptor engines of both vehicles on the launch mount, in common and brief prelaunch trials known as static fires. 

Another shot of the recent Starship stacking shared by SpaceX in a May 15 X post. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Starship's three test flights occurred in April 2023, November 2023 and March 14 of this year. 

The giant rocket's performance has improved on each successive liftoff. The debut, for instance, ended after just four minutes when Starship's two stages failed to separate. Starship doubled that flight time on the second launch and also achieved stage separation. Flight number three lasted nearly 50 minutes, ending when Ship broke apart upon reentry to Earth's atmosphere.

The fourth test flight of SpaceX's Starship could launch as soon as next month, according to Elon Musk. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Flight number four could lift off in just three to five weeks, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said recently. 

There are still some logistical hurdles to clear, however: SpaceX applied for a Starship launch license modification from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, which is overseeing an investigation into what happened on the March 14 mission. That modification has apparently not been approved yet.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.