SpaceX completes tests of Starship rocket in preparation for first orbital launch

Starship Prototype 24 is stacked on top of Super Heavy Launch Vehicle Prototype 7 at the company’s facility near Brownsville, Texas on January 9, 2023.


SpaceX announced on Monday that it has completed major testing of its latest Starship prototype as the company prepares for the launch vehicle’s first orbital launch.

Starship Prototype 24, mounted on a prototype Super Heavy 7 launch vehicle, was refueled at SpaceX’s Texas space base in a test known as a “dress rehearsal.” While the test does not include launching the rocket’s engines, it is a typical practice when developing a new liquid fuel vehicle to show that it can be safely refueled before launch, as well as to test the launch countdown steps.

“This was the first time that the combined spacecraft and booster were fully loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant,” SpaceX said in a statement.

The Starship is a nearly 400-foot-tall rocket designed to carry cargo and people off-Earth. It’s also critical to NASA’s plan to return astronauts to the moon, as SpaceX won a nearly $3 billion contract with the agency in 2021.

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The Starship orbital launch attempt marks the next step in rocket flight testing. It’s been nearly two years since the company last flight-tested Starship, and late last year, SpaceX changed leadership at its Starbase facility in Texas as the company looks to pull off the next launch from the ground.

SpaceX still has a few steps to go before the next Starship launch, including scheduled test launches of all 33 engines powered by the Super Heavy launch vehicle. The company also needs a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration.

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