SpaceX has achieved another major milestone in its Starship fully reusable launch system: It stacked the Starship spacecraft itself on top of a prototype of its Super Heavy booster, which itself is loaded up with a full complement of 29 Raptor rocket engines, and the Starship on top has six itself. The stacked spacecraft now represents the tallest assembled rocket ever developed in history.
This stacking, which happened at SpaceX’s development site in south Texas, is a significant development because it’s the first time the two elements of the full Starship system have been united as one. This is the configuration that will be used for launching the next Starship prototype on its test mission that will hopefully achieve orbit.
Taken together, the massive combined launch system reaches nearly 400 feet tall (around 390 feet, to be more precise), and combined with the orbital launch stand on which it rests, the whole thing is about 475 feet high, which is taller than the Great Pyramid of Giza.
The stacking itself is impressive, but don’t expect it to last: The likely next step is for the two halves of the launch system to be separated again, with both undergoing more work, analysis and testing ahead of a reassembly in preparation for the actual eventual orbital launch test.
As for when the orbital launch test will actually take place, it’s not currently clear. The disassembly, testing and reassembly will take some time, but the company is definitely still aiming to make that happen before end of year.
Stream above from NASASpaceflight.
Updated: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk revealed more details about what’s next for the Starship system after the two halves are separated. In a tweet, he said that next up for the system will be adding the final heat shield tiles on the Starship spacecraft – a task that is around 98% complete, he added in a tweet. The other items on the to-do list are adding thermal protection to booster engines, ground propellant storage tanks, and a QD arm for the ship.
Of course, that’s not all SpaceX needs to do to get Starship flight-ready: receiving a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration. That can’t happen until the regulator has completed an environmental assessment, a process that could take months.