SpaceX ‘s giant Starship rocket is ready for its second test launch. The company stacked its latest Starship vehicle on Tuesday, September 5, hoisting the Ship25 prototype atop the first-stage Booster 9, also known as “Super Heavy” at the company’s Starbase site in South Texas.
Starship is ready
The work represents the preliminary phase before an imminent test flight. According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, it could happen once the required regulations are finalized. “The Starship is ready for launch, pending FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) approval” Musk wrote in an X post that included a 40-second video capturing the highlights of the stacking process.
Starship is the largest and most powerful rocket ever built. SpaceX anticipates that the fully reusable vehicle will ultimately take on nearly all its spaceflight duties, from launching satellites into Earth‘s orbit to sending people to the Moon and Mars.
A first Starship has flown only once to date. In April of this year, during a test flight aimed at sending the upper stage partially around Earth, the plan was for it to conclude with a planned splashdown in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.
However, that vehicle encountered several problems shortly after launch. Some Raptor engines were damaged, and the separation between the first and second stages did not occur. As a result, SpaceX sent a self-destruct command, blowing up the vehicle high above the Gulf of Mexico four minutes after liftoff.
Waiting for the FAA
SpaceX has made a series of modifications to this second Starship vehicle. The most significant is the shift to a hot staging strategy, in which the upper stage ignites its engines before fully separating from the first-stage booster. This change required modifications to Booster 9, including the installation of a heat shield and hot staging to protect Ship25 from the fire.
SpaceX has been preparing for the second Starship launch for some time now. The objectives will be similar to the first one. The company conducted two static fires with Booster 9, briefly igniting the vehicle’s Raptor engines. These two tests took place on August 6 and 25. The second one represented a clear improvement, according to SpaceX, with all 33 Raptors on Booster 9 igniting, compared to 29 during the first static fire.
Despite all of SpaceX’s efforts, there are still other issues: the FAA. The American agency is still reviewing the incident report submitted by SpaceX regarding the April 20 flight. The launch damaged the launch mount and caused significant debris to rain down in the area around the site.