SpaceX stacks first full Starship launch vehicle on orbital pad

spacex first starship vehicle stacked

After a full week of immense progress toward SpaceX’s first orbital Starship vehicles. The SpaceX teams down at Starbase finally stacked their first Starship launch vehicle.

Starship 20 stacked on top of Super Heavy booster 4

The week began with Booster 4 being moved from the High Bay down the road to the orbital launch pad. There SpaceX lifted the booster and placed it for the first time on the launch mount. Installed on the booster were 29 Raptor engines, the most we’ve seen in one place.

Thursday, a fully assembled Starship, Ship 20, was rolled down the highway to join Booster 4 by the launch mount. After winds scrubbed the lift Thursday, early Friday morning SpaceX lifted and stacked Ship 20 on top of Booster 4.

This combination of the two vehicles makes Starship officially the tallest rocket ever built. Standing at 120 meters (119 possibly?). It stands taller than NASA’s Saturn V, used for the Apollo program, which was 110 meters tall. Sadly though, the fully stacked Starship didn’t last long as it was destacked only a few minutes after it was stacked for the first time.

SpaceX’s Starship 20 and Super Heavy 4 being mated on the orbital launch mount. Credit: Nick D’Alessandro and Zac Hall for Space Explored

First orbital launch stil TBD

We are still waiting on the Environmental Assessment from the FAA which will say if SpaceX’s facilities are ready to start orbital launches. The initial assessment could be released for public comment any day now but will then have to wait 30 days for the public comment time to end before it’s finished. Once the assessment is finalized, then we will get a better understanding of when the first orbital launch could take place. Stacking the first Starship vehicle is a huge first step though.

Starship 20 lifted in the air after being stacked with Super Heavy 4. Credit: Nic Ansuini

Major milestone for NASA’s Human Landing System

SpaceX’s first stacked Starship vehicle marks a big milestone in the development of NASA’s Human Landing System as well. Starship was selected to NASA’s sole lander for the first human landing of the Artemis program earlier this year. Since then, a protest from Blue Origin and Dynetics held up NASA’s support for SpaceX but with the help of shuttling employees from Florida and California, SpaceX reached this milestone on their own.

Now that the protest has been ruled in favor of SpaceX, NASA HLS teams can now travel to South Texas and other SpaceX facilities and provide support for SpaceX’s Starship development.

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