SpaceX stacks Starship ahead of 3rd test flight (photos)

SpaceX’s latest Starship megarocket is poised for its highly anticipated liftoff.

SpaceX has stacked the 400-foot-tall (122 meters) vehicle on the pad at its Starbase site in South Texas, the company announced via X today (March 12). That post also included two photos of the newly stacked Starship, the biggest and most powerful rocket ever built.

Stacking is a big step toward launch, which SpaceX has said could occur as soon as Thursday (March 14).

Related: SpaceX fuels up massive Starship megarocket in test for 3rd launch (photos)

closeup of a black spacecraft atop a silver rocket, with cloudy skies in the background.

closeup of a black spacecraft atop a silver rocket, with cloudy skies in the background.


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SpaceX is developing Starship to help humanity settle the moon and Mars. The fully reusable vehicle has flown twice before, on test missions in April and November of last year. Both of those flights aimed to send the Starship upper stage most of the way around Earth, with splashdown targeted for a patch of the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii.

That didn’t happen, however. Starship’s two stages failed to separate during the April flight, and SpaceX detonated the tumbling vehicle intentionally about four minutes after launch. Starship did much better on flight number two, notching a number of important milestones, but both stages still ended up exploding high in the sky.

The upcoming third flight will employ a different trajectory: The target splashdown site for the Starship upper stage is the Indian Ocean rather than the Pacific.

SpaceX will also try a few other new things during the mission, among them “opening and closing Starship’s payload door” and “a propellant transfer demonstration during the upper stage’s coast phase,” SpaceX wrote in a mission description.


— SpaceX rolls giant Starship rocket to launch pad ahead of 3rd test flight (photos)

— SpaceX Starship docking system readies for moon missions in tests with NASA

— Astronauts won’t walk on the moon until 2026 after NASA delays next 2 Artemis missions

While SpaceX is working toward a planned March 14 launch, that target date remains tentative at the moment.

As far as we know, SpaceX still doesn’t have a launch license from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The agency recently wrapped up its investigation into what happened on the November 2023 test flight, but a few boxes apparently still need to be checked.

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