A colossal crane has successfully stacked a Starship upper stage on top of a Super Heavy booster for the first time completing the integration of the tallest rocket in history.
The SpaceX Starbase facility in Boca Chica has been a hive of activity over the last few weeks as the launch provider prepares for the maiden orbital Starship mission. This afternoon, the launch provider passed an important milestone successfully test fitting a Starship upper stage with a Super Heavy booster.
Approximately an hour after it was first stacked, the Starship upper stage was returned to the ground as crews prepared for the final mating of the two stages ahead of Starship’s first orbital demonstration mission.
Fully stacked, the Starship launch vehicle is designed to stand at a height of approximately 120 meters tall, almost 10 meters taller than the legendary Saturn V. It is unclear if this first prototype of the vehicle stands at its intended height.
The development of Starship began in 2016. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that work on the enormous launch vehicle really began to accelerate as SpaceX completed several low-altitude hop tests. These tests were stepping stones to the first orbital demonstration flight, a mission that SpaceX has been preparing for over the last few months.
If this demonstration mission is successful, SpaceX will have launched the largest rocket in history just five years after development began. This would be a staggering achievement.
The road to that historic day is, however, not yet clear.
SpaceX will not be able to launch its Starship demonstration mission until it receives a launch license from the Federal Aviation Administration, which will be dependent on the successful completion of an environmental assessment of Starship launches from Boca Chica.
The FAA has not indicated when it will likely publish the results of its environmental assessment. However, once it does, they will still need to be released for public comment before a final version is published.