UNITED STATES: Booster 7, a prototype Starship Super Heavy booster from SpaceX, is back on the launch pad.
According to a tweet from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, the huge rocket stage that will ultimately transport passengers to the moon and Mars has all 33 next-generation Raptor engines mounted at the launch pad for the first time.
This is part of SpaceX’s pre-launch preparations as the commercial space company gets ready for Starship’s first orbital trip.
Mechazilla loads Starship on the launchpad
SpaceX’s South Texas rocket site, Starbase, saw the placement of Booster 7 into its orbital launch mount on Tuesday, August 23. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, referred to the 469-foot-tall (143-meter) launch tower at Starbase as “Mechazilla” on Twitter.
Musk uploaded a picture of Mechazilla holding Booster 7 and captioned it, “Mechazilla loads Starship on the launchpad.”
SpaceX fired up Starship and Booster 7 earlier this month for “static fire” engine testing, during which each vehicle fired a single Raptor engine. The first time Booster 7 was on the launch pad with its whole array of engines was when just 20 of its 33 total next-generation Raptor engines were mounted at the time.
After the engine testing earlier this month, SpaceX employed Mechazilla to lift Booster 7 and transport it to a processing station at Starbase. Engineers installed the 13 additional Raptors there before Booster 7 returned to the launch pad.
Currently, SpaceX is getting ready for more static fire tests, one of which will simultaneously burn all 33 Raptor engines on Booster 7. Once that succeeds, SpaceX will be one step closer to launching Starship into orbit for the first time, which may happen as early as next month.
SpaceX’s next-generation rocket is named Starship. Its design aims to significantly lower the price of subsequent launches, making it possible to carry astronauts to Mars. It will be the reusable first orbital rocket, considerably reducing the cost.
Additionally, a number of clients, including NASA and Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, have signed contracts with SpaceX for Starship flights. NASA gave SpaceX a $2.9 billion contract last year to return astronauts to the moon’s surface.