SpaceX fuels Starship megarocket again to prep for test flight (photos)

top-down view of a big silver rocket with white vapor billowing from its base
SpaceX conducts a fueling test with its Starship vehicle on May 28, 2024. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

SpaceX has fueled up its Starship megarocket again, ramping up preparations for the huge vehicle's upcoming test flight.

The operation, known as a wet dress rehearsal (WDR), occurred on Tuesday (May 28) at SpaceX's Starbase site in South Texas. The company pumped huge quantities of liquid oxygen and liquid methane into Starship's first and second stages, which are known, respectively, as Super Heavy and Starship (or just "Ship" for short).

"Starship and Super Heavy loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant in a rehearsal ahead of Flight 4. Launch is targeted as early as June 5, pending regulatory approval," SpaceX said today (May 29) in an X post, which also shared photos of the procedure.

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

The May 28 wet dress rehearsal was the second for this Starship vehicle, which could fly as soon as June 5. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

It was the second WDR for this Starship vehicle, following one that occurred on May 20.

The tests are part of prelaunch prep for Starship's fourth-ever flight, which, as SpaceX noted in the X post, could launch as soon as June 5. (The company still needs approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for a proposed modification to its Starship launch license, to be clear.)

The first three Starship test flights took place in April 2023, November 2023 and March 14 of this year. The vehicle has performed better on each successive flight. Starship's two stages failed to separate on the debut mission, for example, which ended just four minutes after launch. But flight 3 lasted nearly 50 minutes, concluding when Ship broke apart during its reentry to Earth's atmosphere.

Flight 4's primary goal "is getting through max reentry heating," SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said in a May 20 X post.

The test was part of the prep work for the fourth Starship test flight. (Image credit: SpaceX via X)

When fully stacked, Starship stands nearly 400 feet (122 meters) tall. It's the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built, and it's designed to be fully and rapidly reusable. 

SpaceX thinks Starship could transform spaceflight, making Mars settlements and other ambitious exploration feats economically feasible. NASA is a believer in the vehicle, choosing it to be the first crewed lunar lander for its Artemis moon program

Starship is currently scheduled to land NASA astronauts on the moon in late 2025 on the Artemis 3 mission, though the vehicle will need to ace quite a few test flights before people climb aboard.

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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.

  • DrRaviSharma
    Even though he may not have political views of your interest, that fact that he has brought Space utilization and respect back for us by enabling human access to ISS through Falcon, and now Artemis Program possibilities of successful lunar Landings and beyond dreaming out of cislunar areas to mars, he is certainly praiseworthy.

    Human energy, like his extraordinary one, is the only one after my mentor and Saturn Developer Dr. Von Braun in my opinion, and enhanced by his successful breakthroughs and earnings in solar, EV and other areas somewhat like Thomas Edison! We wish him to have noble and useful thoughts.

    All Best Wishes for inching towards operational status of STARSHIP Successful flights!
    (Dr. Ravi Sharma, Ph.D. USA)
    NASA Apollo Achievement Award
    ISRO Distinguished Service Awards
    Former MTS NASA HQ MSEB Apollo
    Former Scientific Secretary ISRO HQ
    Ontolog Board of Trustees
    Particle and Space Physics
    Senior Enterprise Architect
    SAE Fuel Cell Tech Committee voting member for 20 years.
  • skynr13
    I really respect Elon for what he has done with SpaceX. But wasting his money on Twitter and a few other things he's said and done, really jeopardize his SpaceX goals. Somehow I wish he would grow up or wise up and walk that fine line a great rocket scientist should.