SpaceX stacks Starship ahead of 3rd test flight (photos)

a large silver rocket stands next to its launch tower, with a large sign reading "spacex" in the foreground
SpaceX's third Starship vehicle stands stacked at the company's Starbase site in South Texas. SpaceX posted this photo on X on March 12, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

SpaceX's latest Starship megarocket is poised for its highly anticipated liftoff.

SpaceX has stacked the 400-foot-tall (122 meters) vehicle on the pad at its Starbase site in South Texas, the company announced via X today (March 12). That post also included two photos of the newly stacked Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built.

Stacking is a big step toward launch, which SpaceX has said could occur as soon as Thursday (March 14).

Related: SpaceX fuels up massive Starship megarocket in test for 3rd launch (photos)

Another shot of the stacked Starship, which SpaceX posted on X on March 12, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)
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If you can't see SpaceX's Starship in person, you can score a model of your own. Standing at 13.77 inches (35 cm), this is a 1:375 ratio of SpaceX's Starship as a desktop model. The materials here are alloy steel and it weighs just 225g.

Note: Stock is low so you'll have to act quickly to get this. 

SpaceX is developing Starship to help humanity settle the moon and Mars. The fully reusable vehicle has flown twice before, on test missions in April and November of last year. Both of those flights aimed to send the Starship upper stage most of the way around Earth, with splashdown targeted for a patch of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii. 

That didn't happen, however. Starship's two stages failed to separate during the April flight, and SpaceX detonated the tumbling vehicle intentionally about four minutes after launch. Starship did much better on flight number two, notching a number of important milestones, but both stages still ended up exploding high in the sky.

The upcoming third flight will employ a different trajectory: The target splashdown site for the Starship upper stage is the Indian Ocean rather than the Pacific. 

SpaceX will also try a few other new things during the mission, among them "opening and closing Starship's payload door" and "a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage's coast phase," SpaceX wrote in a mission description.

While SpaceX is working toward a planned March 14 launch, that target date remains tentative at the moment.

As far as we know, SpaceX still doesn't have a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The agency recently wrapped up its investigation into what happened on the November 2023 test flight, but a few boxes apparently still need to be checked.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with Space.com 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.