SpaceX plans to conduct its first test flight Monday of the Starship, the most powerful rocket ever built, designed to send astronauts to the moon and eventually beyond.
The launch is scheduled for 7:00 am (1200 GMT) from the sprawling Texas base of billionaire Elon Musk’s private space company.
Reserve times are scheduled for later in the week if Monday’s attempt is postponed.
NASA has selected the spacecraft capsule to carry its astronauts to the moon as part of the Artemis III mission, scheduled for late 2025 at the earliest.
The Starship consists of a reusable capsule that carries the crew, cargo, and the Super Heavy first-stage booster rocket.
The 164-foot (50-meter) Starship sits atop the 230-foot Super Heavy rocket.
SpaceX successfully test-fired 33 Raptor engines on its Starship first stage in February.
The Super Heavy booster was pinned to the ground during a test firing, called a steady fire, to prevent it from firing.
The rocket never flew in its full configuration, powered by the first stage.
“Success is possible, excitement is guaranteed!” Musk tweeted late Friday.
NASA will take astronauts into lunar orbit in November 2024 using its heavy rocket called the Space Launch System (SLS), which has been in development for more than a decade.
The spacecraft is larger and more powerful than the SLS.
It generates 17 million pounds of thrust, more than double the Saturn V rockets used to send the Apollo astronauts to the moon.
SpaceX expects to eventually put the spacecraft into orbit, then refuel it with another craft so it can continue on to Mars or beyond.
The idea of a reusable launcher, Musk’s broad strategy, is to reduce the price. He said early last year that each flight on the spacecraft could eventually cost “less than $10 million.”
Other super heavy missiles under development include the New Glenn Blue Origin, China’s Long March 9 and Russia’s Yenisei.
© 2023 AFP
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