SpaceX stacks giant Starship rocket ahead of 3rd test flight (video, photos)

SpaceX's third Starship megarocket is standing tall ahead of its upcoming test flight.

SpaceX recently stacked the enormous vehicle on the orbital launch mount at its Starbase site in South Texas, placing the Ship 28 upper-stage prototype atop its Booster 10 first-stage partner.

"Starship team is preparing for a full launch rehearsal ahead of Flight 3," SpaceX wrote in a post on X today (Feb. 13) that shared photos of the milestone. In another post, the company published a short video of the stacking, which was performed by the "chopstick" arms of Starbase's launch tower.

Related: See stunning photos and video of Starship's 2nd launch

SpaceX's third Starship megarocket stands stacked on the launch pad at its Starbase site in South Texas. SpaceX released this photo on Feb. 13, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Flight 3 will likely occur about three weeks from now, according to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, provided the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration awards a launch license in time.

The first two test flights of Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, occurred in April and November of last year.

SpaceX stacks its third Starship vehicle at Starbase, its South Texas launch site. SpaceX released this photo on Feb. 13, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Both missions ended in the explosive death of Starship, though the vehicle notched some important milestones on Flight 2

For example, the 33 Raptor engines of Starship's first stage aced their initial burn on the November missions, and the booster separated seamlessly from the upper-stage spacecraft.

Another shot of the Starship stacking operations.  (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

Both of Starship's stainless-steel stages are designed to be fully and rapidly reusable. SpaceX is developing the 400-foot-tall (122 meters) megarocket to take people and payloads to the moon and Mars, as well as conduct other operations closer to home — including, potentially, carrying people on superfast trips here Earth.

SpaceX has already signed NASA up as a customer: The space agency picked Starship to be the first crewed lander for its Artemis program of moon exploration. If all goes according to plan, Starship will put NASA astronauts down near the lunar south pole for the first time in September 2026, on the Artemis 3 mission.

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.