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SpaceX's Starship Super Heavy rocket prototype moves to launch pad for tests

SpaceX's Booster 7 Super Heavy rocket rolling out to its test pad at Starbase.
SpaceX's Booster 7 Super Heavy rocket booster rolls out to its test pad at the company's Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas on June 23, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX's massive Starship project was on the move last week, as its "Booster 7" Super Heavy rocket prototype moved to its South Texas test pad Thursday (June 23).

The Starship rocket and its Super Heavy is set for pressure testing and perhaps, a static fire test at its facility near Boca Chica that would assess its abilities to burn fuel consistently over a period of time, according to Ars Technica (opens in new tab)

If it survives, "by no means a guarantee given the developmental nature of the Raptor 2 engine," this booster could bring Starship on an orbital test flight in July, the report added Friday (June 24).

Photos: SpaceX lifts huge Super Heavy rocket onto launch stand

SpaceX's Starship program includes both the first-stage booster, Super Heavy, and a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) upper-stage vehicle also called Starship. Both vehicles are designed to be fully reusable. When fully stacked, Starship and Super Heavy stand 395 feet tall (120 m), making it the world's tallest rocket

SpaceX eventually plans to use this system to take humans and cargo to the moon for NASA, then aim for Mars and other solar system destinations, but Starship only has a few high-altitude test flights under its belt so far.

Those tests all took place in a cluster between August 2020 and May 2021; ever since, SpaceX has been waiting for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to complete an environmental assessment for orbital opportunities. 

That process just wrapped up weeks ago with 75 required actions for SpaceX to take to continue operations at Boca Chica. (The FAA had delayed the deadline several times, saying it had to discuss the findings with other agencies and sift through thousands of public comments sent after a draft version was released in September 2021.)

But even now, FAA approval is not a guarantee. SpaceX still needs to secure a launch license, pending how well the agency deems it addressed those outstanding items in the environmental assessment.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently tweeted (opens in new tab), however, that the long-awaited orbital test flight of the system will happen next month. 

"We will have a second Starship stack ready to fly in August and then monthly thereafter," Musk added in another tweet (opens in new tab).

Starship is NASA's lander of choice for its Artemis program, which aims to put astronauts on the moon no earlier than 2025. Musk wants to send people to Mars around the same time, but he is known for setting aggressive targets both at SpaceX and his car manufacturing company, Tesla.

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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.