SpaceX Sends Starship Back to Launch Pad Ahead of 1st Orbital Test Flight

July 7, 2022
The company rolled Starship 24, the 24th prototype of the next-generation rocket, back to the launch pad at its Boca Chica, Texas facility this week.

SpaceX may have all the pieces in place soon for the first orbital test flight of Starship.

The company rolled Starship 24, the 24th prototype of the next-generation rocket, back to the launch pad at its Boca Chica, Texas facility this week.

“Ship 24 was transported to the pad at Starbase in preparation for the first orbital flight test of Starship,” the company posted to its Twitter account Wednesday.

It will mate the vehicle to the Super Heavy Booster 7 on site, which preceded Starship to the launch pad. The company recently posted to its social media a view of the 33 Raptor engines installed on Super Heavy B7 and the six Raptor engines on S24, which will be used to attempt the most powerful rocket liftoff from Earth ever.

When it does launch, the Starship and Super Heavy combo would generate more than 16 million pounds of thrust. That nearly doubles the power of NASA’s planned Artemis flights and more than doubles those of the Apollo missions.

The two massive pieces of hardware, that when combined stand 395 feet tall, had already been to the launch pad for testing, but were rolled back after initial tests caused some damage, according to a report on

The company’s path to a launch became clearer last month when the Federal Aviation Administration released the results of an environmental assessment, which found there would be no significant impact as long as SpaceX followed a series of proposed mitigation efforts.

So with the hardware in place, SpaceX will still need to meet  FAA safety, risk and financial responsibility requirements before it can move forward with a launch.

SpaceX has stated it preferred to keep Starship test flights in Texas, but is also building out launch facilities for the next-gen rocket at Kennedy Space Center, where it launches its current stable of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.

To date, the company has flown prototype versions of Starship without the booster to about 6 miles altitude, and attempted landings back in Texas, sometimes with fiery results. Those used only three or fewer of the new, powerful Raptor engines.

The plan for the next test flight, though, is to launch the stacked version of Starship and Super Heavy, have them separate, return the booster to land on a SpaceX vessel 20 miles offshore in the Gulf of Mexico while Starship achieves orbit for least one trip around the Earth and then lands in the Pacific Ocean.

Immediate plans for Starship are for Starlink satellite delivery to add to the company’s growing constellation of internet satellites, as well as to develop a version to assist NASA in getting humans back on the moon by 2025. Also upcoming is a tourist flight to orbit the moon funded by a Japanese fashion tycoon who’s taking along several artists.

The main purpose for its development, though, is eventually to help create a self-sustaining colony on Mars.

“Humanity will reach Mars in your lifetime,” said company founder Elon Musk on his Twitter this week. “Without a common goal, humanity will fight itself. Moon brought us together in ‘69, Mars can do that in the future.”

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