We were recently treated to an image of the metallic spaghetti pipework required inside one of SpaceX's massive Super Heavy boosters, courtesy of SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Now, SpaceX's Twitter page has joined in on the fun by showing off its orbital Starship prototype with its massive stack of 29 installed Raptor engines.
"29 Raptor engines and 4 grid fins have been installed on Super Heavy ahead of first orbital flight," the company wrote on social media on Monday alongside photos of its massive orbital rocket. Shortly afterward, Elon Musk also posted an image of the "full-stack" Starship prototype.
Raptor engines attached "ahead of first orbital flight"
SpaceX's Super Heavy booster is designed to launch its Starship rocket to the Moon, Mars, and beyond. The massive machine is designed to exert 14.5 million lbs (6,600 metric tons) of thrust for liftoff, which is approximately double that of NASA's Saturn V rocket used for the iconic Apollo missions.
29 Raptor engines and 4 grid fins have been installed on Super Heavy ahead of first orbital flight pic.twitter.com/XHkCZ9VYK4— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 3, 2021
Up to now, SpaceX has conducted several Starship prototype takeoffs and landings — several of which ended in explosions — at its Starbase development center at Boca Chica, Texas. However, one of the company's largest upcoming challenges is getting a Starship prototype to orbit with the help of Super Heavy.
Raptors on Super Heavy pic.twitter.com/jJy1vftHNB— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 2, 2021
Back in 2019, SpaceX's vice president of commercial sales Jonathan Hofeller stated that Starship would likely make its maiden orbital voyage in 2021. However, with the end of the year fast approaching, we are yet to get a specific date for the launch, which may have been delayed due to the pandemic.
Ambitious first flight awaits for SpaceX's Super Heavy
Still, with Super Heavy now fully installed with its 29 Raptor engines we may be closer to that historic launch date — though the private space firm will have to get the required approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration for launch.
According to CNET, SpaceX plans to eventually launch Starship to orbit from Starbase. After reaching orbit, Starship will attempt a soft splashdown landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Hawaii. Shortly after launch, the Super Heavy booster will separate from Starship and attempt to land offshore on a landing platform in the Gulf of Mexico in a similar fashion to SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster landings.
Though Elon Musk is known for setting ambitious deadlines that are often missed, SpaceX undeniably has a long list of historic achievements — including the company's first human spaceflight last year — that is unrivaled by other private space firms. That means that, whether it's this year or next, we are likely not too far off seeing the first launch of a Starship-carrying Super Heavy.