SpaceX is preparing to launch its Starship spacecraft on an orbital test flight, according to tweets from Elon MuskThe private space company hopes that the Starship represents the future of its missions to space, taking humanity to the Moon and beyond.
But first it must undergo a series of tests to ensure it is safe to launch and carry people. SpaceX has built a number of versions of the Starship – all the way up to SN15 – but those have only attempted high-altitude test flights, to altitudes roughly similar to a traditional plane.
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SpaceX is preparing to jump all the way to SN20, however, with a launch that will see it launched high enough that it could go into orbit. Such a launch is expected any time from this month.
In that test, which is expected to happen from SpaceX’s headquarters in Texas, Starship wil be carried up on its initial flight by the Super Heavy booster. That booster stage will then detach from the second stage and sail back down to Earth, with the aim of landing on a barge ready to be re-used.
Starship will then enter orbit, fly above the Earth, and splash down in the sea.
Mr Musk has now tweeted a host of pictures showing those engines being fitted to the booster, to ensure that it can carry Starship up into space on that test, which is presumably getting close.
Installing Starship booster engines for first orbital flight pic.twitter.com/yhqrNFBclh
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 2, 2021
Later, he posted a picture of the raptor engines tightly packed into the Super Heavy booster.
Neither Mr Musk or SpaceX are yet to confirm when that orbital test might happen.