Watch SpaceX's Starship being prepared for historic orbital launch attempt

"Starship is stacked and ready to launch next week, pending regulatory approval," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter.
Chris Young
The fully stacked Starship rocket at the launch facility.
The fully stacked Starship rocket at the launch facility.

SpaceX / Twitter 

The time is near.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has shared drone footage of the Starship mega-rocket being stacked on Wednesday, April 5, ahead of its first historic orbital launch attempt.

The massive rocket, which is expected to take humans to Mars eventually, could fly to orbit for the first time as soon as next week.

Starship is ready for the Orbital Flight Test

SpaceX lifted the Ship 24 upper-stage prototype onto Booster 7 using its giant "Mechazilla" launch tower at the company's Starbase facility in South Texas. Booster 7 is the prototype for SpaceX's Super Heavy first-stage, which will launch for the first time for SpaceX's upcoming Orbital Flight Test, or OFT.

Elon Musk shared a video of the process via Twitter on Thursday morning. The impressive footage shows an impressive view of the stacking process, starting with the camera approaching Starship over the sea.

If all goes to plan, the 394-foot-tall (120 meters) Starship rocket will become the world's most powerful rocket once it lifts off, surpassing NASA's Space Launch System (SLS).

While SLS produced about 9.5 million lbs of thrust at liftoff during the Artemis I moon mission, Starship is expected to soar past that record by creating a massive 17 million lbs of thrust at launch. That will be thanks primarily to the 33 Raptor engines that power Super Heavy.

The historic Starship launch could go ahead next week

Earlier this week, we reported that Starship could launch as early as Monday, April 10, though the launch date relied on the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval.

In a separate tweet, shared after the video of the Starship stacking process, Musk confirmed that SpaceX is still awaiting FAA authorization by stating that "Starship is stacked & ready to launch next week, pending regulatory approval."

SpaceX and Elon Musk designed Starship to be fully reusable to dramatically reduce the cost of successive launches, allowing future missions to travel to Mars. The OFT, however, will end with Ship 24 splashing down in the Pacific Ocean near the Hawaiian island of Kauai. Booster 7, meanwhile, is expected to splash down in the Gulf of Mexico shortly after launch.

Though Starship has yet to fly to orbit for the first time, several upcoming missions are slated to use the massive Mars rocket.

NASA has contracted SpaceX to develop a modified Starship to use as a lunar lander for its Artemis III mission, slated for 2025 at the earliest.

Japanese billionaire Yusaka Maezawa, meanwhile, has chartered a Starship trip around the moon. That trip, called dearMoon, will see Maezawa joined by eight artists.

Though dearMoon is scheduled to lift off this year, the launch will largely depend on the outcome of this month's OFT. It's worth noting that Musk recently stated that Starship has a roughly 50 percent chance of reaching orbit on its first attempt.

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