Mechazilla lifts a super heavy with all 33 engines onto the launch pad

Little by little, SpaceX is getting closer to achieving the first orbital flight with its Spatialship and Very heavy prototype! That was certainly the message that Elon Musk conveyed on August 23 when he posted an image via Twitter of the “Mechazilla” launch tower loading the fully stacked prototype onto its launch pad at SpaceX Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas. From there, the six-motor SN24 Spatialship and the BN7 Very heavy prototype (with its full line of 33 Raptor engines) will be launched, which could happen in just a few weeks.

Earlier this month, SpaceX conducted a single-engine firing test of the BN 7, which occurred about a month after an “engine spin start test” resulted in a minor explosion on the launching ramp. At the time, Musk said BN7 would “probably return to the launch pad next week”, pending another inspection in Starbase High Bay. The fact that the booster and spacecraft are now stacked and sitting together on the launch pad strongly suggests that SpaceX is just waiting for its launch license from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

It’s also possible that Musk is hoping to perform another round of static fire tests to see how the entire vehicle holds up to the stresses it will experience during launch. However, the last time the Starship and Super Heavy were on the launch pad together was in July after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) completed its programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) of Starbase (and recommended corrective actions). As such, it seems likely that SpaceX is confident in its test results and preparing for its Orbital Test Flight (OTF).

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According to documents previously filed with the FCC, the Orbital Test Flight (OTF) will consist of the simultaneous launch of the SN24 and the B7 and separating approximately 170 seconds of flight. The thruster will then make a soft landing at sea approximately 30 km (20 mi) from the Texas coastline. SN24 will reach a maximum altitude of 200 km (~125 mi) before making a soft landing approximately 100 km (62 mi) off the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The total flight time will last approximately 90 minutes and, if successful, will validate the launch system for multiple mission profiles.

These include deploying Starlink V2.0 satellites into low Earth orbit (like a “Pez dispenser”), landing astronauts near the lunar south pole – the Spacecraft human landing system (HLS) – as part of the Artemis III mission, and ferry crews and payloads to the Moon, Mars, and possibly beyond. Things follow one another, and the day the Spatialship manages to make its maiden flight in orbit!

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