- The most powerful rocket built so far is being prepared for its first launch to space
Watch the progress live
This is a fully stacked Starship (top) and Super Heavy (bottom). A couple of too-small-to-see cars near the bottom for scale, I also added a Saturn V and the Statue of Liberty for comparison. 120 meters tall, about 5000 tonnes when fully fueled. Twice the mass and over twice the thrust of Saturn V. The largest rocket ever built by mass, thrust, height, and payload capacity. N1 had the largest diameter.
But its size is not the revolutionary part. It is designed to be fully and rapidly reusable as first rocket ever: Land, stack, refuel, launch again,, like an aircraft. If successful it could cut launch costs so radically that space gets accessible to millions.
SpaceX has made rapid progress towards a first launch in recent weeks, leading to the first full stack today. This was not being stacked for a launch yet, it was only a test of the procedure. About an hour later Starship was disconnected again (it's still being lowered at the time of this post). Some heat shield tiles (black) are still missing and there are probably other outstanding tasks. We can also expect more tests of the upper stage (which just left the production site yesterday), and potentially more tests of the booster.
No launch date yet. The FAA needs to finish an environmental review which requires a 30 day period for comments from the public. That period has not started yet. We don't know the exact timeline of SpaceX but it's possible that the FAA approval is the critical path. The rocket might be ready earlier.
The first launch will only be in space for a bit less than one full orbit. The booster will end up in the Gulf of Mexico while Starship will splash down near Kauai in the Pacific. That launch profile makes sure Starship can't strand in space (and re-enter uncontrolled) if something goes wrong.
Image sources: NASA Spaceflight, Apollo, Statue of Liberty