SpaceX's Starship mega-rocket could finally launch into orbit in the coming days

If all goes to plan, Starship will overtake NASA's SLS to become the world's most powerful operational rocket.
Chris Young
Starship on the launch pad at Starbase.
Starship on the launch pad at Starbase.

SpaceX / Twitter 

We might finally see Starship launch toward orbit in just a few days.

SpaceX moved Ship 24, the Starship upper stage prototype it intends to launch on its first orbital flight test (OFT), to its launch site in South Texas on Saturday, April 1. The first launch attempt could occur as soon as April 10, according to a report from Ars Technica.

If all goes to plan, SpaceX will have the world's most powerful operational rocket on its hands, and by some distance.

Elon Musk says Starship launch will guarantee excitement

Last week, SpaceX lifted the enormous "Super Heavy" first-stage prototype for its Starship launch system, Booster 7, onto a launch mount at the same site. Next, the private space firm will stack Ship 23 atop Booster 7 before the first orbital launch attempt.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently stated that Starship would likely launch around the second half of April. In a new report, though, Ars Technica's senior space editor Eric Berger cited sources stating that the launch attempt could take place as soon as Monday, April 10. Musk did point out that SpaceX is awaiting Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) approval before launch, so that does have the potential to move the date back a little.

It's worth noting, however, that even if SpaceX does launch Starship next week, the massive Mars rocket is not guaranteed to reach orbit. Musk recently wrote on Twitter that Starship has a roughly 50 percent chance of reaching orbit on its first attempt. "I'm not saying it will get to orbit, but I am guaranteeing excitement," he added.

Starship will be the world's most powerful rocket.

Back in January, Starship completed a full wet dress rehearsal of Starship, meaning it carried out all launch operations up to the final seconds of the countdown.

With that key milestone out of the way, SpaceX has been progressively working towards Starship's first orbital launch attempt.

Ahead of the OFT, technicians at SpaceX's Starbase launch facility in South Texas have added shielding to the launch mount, which will be subjected to extreme heat from the 33 Raptor engines that power Super Heavy.

If all goes according to plan for SpaceX, those Raptor engines will make Starship the world's most powerful operational rocket. The title was previously held by SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket, though it was dethroned by NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) moon rocket.

SLS produced about 9.5 million lbs of thrust at liftoff. Falcon Heavy is essentially made of three Falcon 9 boosters strapped together and has 5 million lbs of thrust. Starship is expected to soar past the record set by SLS by producing an enormous 17 million lbs of thrust at launch. With that power and the reduced costs linked to Starship's full reusability, SpaceX hopes to send the first humans to Mars eventually.

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