Elon Musk’s SpaceX is on the cusp of its first attempt to launch its Starship spacecraft, the tallest and most powerful launch vehicle ever built, into orbit around Earth.
CEO Musk tweeted a short video Thursday alongside the message “Starship preparing for launch”.
Starship preparing for launch 🚀 pic.twitter.com/M1pR8rsmYt
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 6, 2023
However, a later tweet from SpaceX indicated that a “wet launch” rehearsal would take place week commencing Monday, April 10, 2023 with a launch potentially the week after.
“Starship fully stacked at Starbase. The team is working towards a launch rehearsal next week followed by Starship’s first integrated flight test ~week later pending regulatory approval,” SpaceX said.
Starship—specifically Ship 24—will launch from SpaceX’s Starbase on Boca Chica Beach, Texas.
According to Spaceflight Now this orbital test flight will see a SpaceX Super Heavy and Starship launch vehicle attempt one full orbit of Earth before Starship’s re-entry and splashdown near Hawaii.
The Super Heavy rocket booster will separate 170 seconds into flight and return to land approximately 32 km off the shore of the Boca Chica launch site in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Space Launch Now, which states that the second stage (Starship) will orbit Earth before a powered, targeted splashdown approximately 100 km off the northwest coast of Kauai, Hawaii.
The Starship is a fully reusable rocket-spaceship. Technically it’s two pieces of hardware that together stand 390 feet tall:
Super Heavy rocket (first stage): 33 Raptor engines that burn liquid oxygen and methane.
Starship spacecraft (second stage): six Raptor engines. An all-in-one spacecraft where crew or cargo can be housed.
Used in various configurations—from reusable to expendable (more cargo) and with/without the Super Heavy rocket underneath—Starship is a reusable concept designed for everything from Moon landings and interplanetary exploration (notably building and filling a colony on Mars) to suborbital supersonic flights on Earth.
Elon Musk’s Starship to carry people and cargo to the moon and Mars
SpaceX has high hopes for Starship. The company is developing the vehicle to carry people and cargo to the moon and Mars — and some customers have already booked rides, even though Starship has not yet gone orbital.
For example, NASA picked Starship to be the first crewed lander for its Artemis moon exploration program, with an initial astronaut touchdown targeted for 2025.
In addition, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa bought a Starship trip around the moon, which he’ll take with a crew of eight artists.
And American engineer and entrepreneur Dennis Tito plans to fly on a different Starship circumlunar mission, along with his wife and other passengers yet to be named. The launch dates for these two private Starship moon missions have not yet been established.