Elon Musk’s silver vision for sending humans to the Moon and Mars sits next to a 480-foot launch tower in the southern corner of Texas. It’s a new rocket from SpaceX called the Starship that’s more powerful than any vehicle that’s ever been in space.
On Monday morning, SpaceX will attempt to launch the Starship prototype into space for the first time. This is what you need to know about the flight.
When is the Starship release and how can I watch it?
Starship and the Super Heavy booster that will carry it into orbit are scheduled to be loaded with boosters early Monday morning at a SpaceX test site in Texas, just outside the city of Brownsville. The launch site, which SpaceX calls Starbase, is near the Gulf of Mexico.
SpaceX scheduled the flight for 8 a.m. ET and could launch anytime between then and 10:30 a.m. The company said it would begin a live broadcast. on his Youtube channel 45 minutes before the rocket is ready to take off.
If problems arise and SpaceX can’t launch on Monday, it will keep trying throughout the week. While the launch site it seemed blurry Sunday afternoon, SpaceX said the weather looked “pretty good for tomorrow morning, but we are watching for wind shear.”
What is Starship?
It is the tallest rocket ever built: 394 feet tall, or almost 90 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, including the pedestal.
And it has the most engines in a rocket booster: The Super Heavy, the bottom section that will propel the upper Starship vehicle into orbit, has 33 of SpaceX’s powerful Raptor engines protruding from its bottom. They are capable of generating 16 million pounds of thrust at full speed, much more than the Saturn V that carried the Apollo astronauts to the moon.
Starship is designed to be completely reusable. The Super Heavy booster will land much like those on SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 9 rockets, and the Starship will be able to return from space by lurching through the atmosphere like a skydiver before turning to an upright position to land.
Why is SpaceX building Starship?
SpaceX’s current Falcon 9 rocket is the most frequently launched rocket in the world. It has been launched into space 24 times in 2023, most recently on Friday night.
Starship is the next step. It could carry much more cargo and many more people than Falcon 9. And because it’s completely reusable, Starship could greatly reduce the cost of launching payloads into orbit.
NASA is paying SpaceX to build a version of the vehicle to transport astronauts from lunar orbit to the moon’s surface for the Artemis III and IV missions later in the decade. The spacecraft is also central to Musk’s vision of sending people to Mars.
What will happen during the flight?
For Monday’s test flight, Starship will fly part of the way around Earth, starting from Texas and landing in Hawaiian waters.
Eventually, SpaceX hopes to regularly land both the Super Heavy booster and the Starship orbiter for reuse on future launches. But the spacecraft for Monday’s flight will crash into the ocean and sink. They are intended as a first test of the vehicles, and the data will allow engineers to fix what is not working and make improvements.
About eight minutes after launch on Monday, the Super Heavy booster will drop into the Gulf of Mexico. The Starship vehicle will fly higher in space, reaching an altitude of approximately 150 miles and traveling around Earth before re-entering the atmosphere. If it survives re-entry, approximately 90 minutes after launch, it will plunge into the Pacific Ocean about 62 miles north of the island of Kauai.