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SpaceX Starship: 6 jaw-dropping photos show rocket ahead of biggest test

SpaceX's Starship rocket is gearing up for its most ambitious test yet, and CEO Elon Musk has shared images of the rocket stacked up.

It’s finally happened — SpaceX has stacked the Starship, creating what could become the world’s tallest rocket ever to fly.

Over the weekend, spaceflight firm CEO Elon Musk shared photos on Twitter of its fully-stacked rocket at the firm's Texas facility for the first time. The under-development rocket is designed to support SpaceX’s most ambitious future missions, like a city on Mars and transforming humanity into a multi-planet species.

“It will be exciting to see what new cultures humanity creates on other heavenly bodies!” Musk wrote on Twitter.

The Starship stacked up high, on top of the launch platform.Twitter

The construction pairs the smaller ship (the one that’s already completed a series of high-altitude tests) with the Super Heavy. This booster is designed to help the ship lift off from Earth’s gravity and is set to support the ship on its first orbital flight this year.

It’s a pivotal moment for Musk and SpaceX. Musk first unveiled the ship’s predecessor back in 2017 under the title “BFR.” The fully-reusable ship is designed to send up to 100 people or 100 tons into space at a time. The ship is intended to replace existing rockets like the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy while enabling the firm’s bigger plans.

Its use of liquid oxygen and methane as a fuel, as opposed to the rocket propellant found on the Falcon 9, means astronauts could fly to Mars, refuel using the planet’s resources, and either return home or venture out further.

Musk described the fully stacked rocket as a “dream come true.”

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SpaceX Starship stacked with the sunlight in the background.Twitter

SpaceX Starship: how the photos reveal its true size

As is perhaps clear from the images, this rocket is giant. The ship alone measures around 160 feet, while the Super Heavy booster measures 230 feet. Taken together, the pair reach an estimated 394 feet in height.

The rocket’s sheer size has been a point of fascination ever since its predecessor was unveiled in 2017. For comparison, SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy ships measure 229.6 feet tall. United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket measures around 197 feet tall.

The tallest rocket to ever fly was NASA’s Saturn V, which measured 363 feet tall. It was also the most powerful rocket yet flown, with 7.6 million pounds of thrust at launch.

If SpaceX’s rocket flies, it will take both records from the Saturn V — the Super Heavy booster will produce 16 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

SpaceX Starship moving into position onto the Super Heavy booster.Twitter

Musk also shared an image of the Starship reminiscent of the iconic “Lunch atop a Skyscraper” photo.

SpaceX Starship with workers observing.Twitter

SpaceX Starship: Elon Musk’s plans for the ship

SpaceX Starship getting ready to stack up.Twitter

SpaceX plans to host an orbital flight with the ship in the second half of this year. The 90-minute flight will see the ship lift off from the Texas facility, separate from the booster after 171 seconds (when it will soft land in the Gulf of Mexico), and then continue to land around 60 miles off the coast of Hawaii.

Musk explained on Twitter that there are four items still to go before launch:

  1. The final heat shield tiles need to be completed. These are “~98% done.”
  2. The booster engines need thermal protection
  3. The on-the-ground propellant storage tanks need to be completed
  4. The quick disconnect, or QD, arm for the ship needs to be completed

The heat shields are visible on the ship portion in black. These will be used to protect the ship during its landing.

SpaceX Starship ready to go.Twitter

The launch date is unclear, but SpaceX will be keen to launch as quickly as possible. SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell claimed in June the firm was “shooting for July.

On June 29, Musk claimed at the Mobile World Congress that "we are going to do our best to do an orbital [Starship] launch attempt in the next few months."

From there, Starship has big plans lined up soon. The firm is aiming to send Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa around the Moon in 2023.

SPACEX STARSHIP ORBITAL FLIGHT: HOW DID WE GET HERE?

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