SpaceX plans largest launch in world history next month

A Starship rocket and Super Heavy booster shown in an animated video from SpaceX (SpaceX)
A Starship rocket and Super Heavy booster shown in an animated video from SpaceX (SpaceX)

SpaceX will be ready for the first ever launch of its Starship and Super Heavy Booster rocket as early as next month, CEO Elon Musk has announced.

The combined launch system is set to be the largest in history, overtaking Nasa’s Space Launch System (SLS) that lifted off in November.

It will mark the first orbital flight test of SpaceX’s Mars-bound rocket, lifting off from the firm’s Starbase facility in Texas before splashing down in two separate parts in the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean.

“We have a real shot at late February,” Mr Musk tweeted. “March launch attempt appears highly likely.”

With all 33 of its Raptor engines lit, SpaceX’s Super Heavy rocket will produce more than 7.25 million kg of thrust, nearly double that of the 4 million kg of thrust produced by the SLS.

The upper part of the Starship stack has already performed several uncrewed flight tests, proving its ability to land autonomously in order to be reused.

Nasa plans to use the spacecraft as the lander for its Artemis 3 mission, which will deliver astronauts to the surface of the Moon for the first time in more than 50 years.

Mr Musk hopes to eventually use dozens of Starship craft to transport people and cargo around the Solar System, with the hope of establishing a permanent human colony on Mars by the 2050s.

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SpaceX is also planning the first ever civilian trip to the Moon using Starship on a mission financed by Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa.

The dearMoon project will see nine crew members fly around the Moon, with a lift-off originally scheduled for 2023. The launch date will depend on the success of Starship’s orbital flight test, which has already been beset by several delays relating to permits from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

It is not clear if the latest launch attempt has received FAA approval. The Independent has reached out to the US regulator for comment.