Next Launch:

SpaceX Stacks the Starship Super Heavy

Deven Perez
August 11, 20217:00 PM UTC (UTC +0)

Deven Perez for Supercluster

The Starship S20 prototype being lifted onto the B4 booster captured by Deven Perez for Supercluster

Supercluster photographer and Texas native Deven Perez ventured out to Starbase on Friday, August 6th, to witness the first stacking of SpaceX's Starship Super Heavy rocket.

Starship is 160 feet in height while the Super Heavy booster measures about 230 feet and when stacked on top of each other, form the largest launch system ever built.

At liftoff, the enormous booster is expected to generate nearly 15 million pounds of thrust with its already-installed 29 Raptor engines. Starship has 6 Raptor engines and is being designed for full reusability with the entire launch system having the capability to ferry about 100 metric tons of cargo to low-Earth orbit.

“There is a reason no fully reusable orbital rocket has been built — it’s an insanely hard problem,” Elon Musk tweeted after the stacking. "It must be rapidly & completely reusable (like an airplane). This is the only way to make life multiplanetary. Efficiencies of scale is why Starship is so large.”

SpaceX has installed thermal protection tiles on the Starship S20 prototype (Deven Perez for Supercluster)

The SpaceX Starship Super Heavy (Deven Perez for Supercluster)

SpaceX is preparing Starship and its Super Heavy booster for an upcoming orbital flight test. At launch, which is expected in a couple of months, the Super Heavy booster will fire its 29 Raptor engines for around 2 minutes and 49 seconds heading East from Starbase. Then, as we've seen with Falcon 9 booster during livestreams, the Super Heavy booster will separate from Starship and fall to a splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 8 minutes after liftoff.

Upon separation, Starship will ignite its 6 Raptor engines and push into orbit, heading east over the Gulf of Mexico. “The Orbital Starship will continue on flying between the Florida Straits. It will achieve orbit until performing a powered, targeted landing approximately 100 kilometers (about 62 miles) off the northwest coast of Kauai in a soft ocean landing,” said SpaceX.

The entire orbital Starship flight test from Texas to Hawaii is expected to last around 90 minutes.

Starship Super Heavy has since been unstacked after fit checks. SpaceX will now conduct static-fire testing of both Starship and the Super Heavy booster's Raptor engines before stacking them again for the orbital mission. Our tracker page for this launch will be up soon.

As part of the Artemis program to return humans to the moon for the first time since Apollo, NASA has awarded SpaceX the responsibility of flying its astronauts down to the lunar surface using Starship.

The Starship orbital launch mount and tower are under construction (Deven Perez for Supercluster)

SpaceX has installed massive grid fins on the Super Heavy booster for flight control (Deven Perez for Supercluster)

Deven Perez
August 11, 20217:00 PM UTC (UTC +0)