SpaceX stacks Mars-bound Starship for biggest ever rocket launch but lacks flight clearance

Starship 24 stacked on the Super Heavy Booster 7 at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas on 9 January, 2023 (SpaceX)
Starship 24 stacked on the Super Heavy Booster 7 at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas on 9 January, 2023 (SpaceX)

SpaceX is awaiting flight clearance for the biggest rocket launch in history after stacking its next-generation Starship rocket on top of its Super Heavy Booster.

The rocket is expected to be ready to launch from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Texas next month, though permits still need to be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Previous launch attempts have been delayed after permission was not granted in time by the US regulator, while adverse weather conditions and technical setbacks could also hamper the record-breaking launch.

“The FAA will make a licence determination only after the agency is satisfied SpaceX meets all licensing, safety and other regulatory requirements,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

The FAA licence application process involves reviews on policy, payload, safety, airspace integration, financial responsibility and environmental impacts. It also takes into account national security or foreign policy concerns, though these are unlikely to impact its ruling for SpaceX’s launch.

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SpaceX is developing Starship with the goal of travelling to the Moon and Mars, setting up permanent human bases on both.

In order to reach such distances across the Solar System with significant payloads, SpaceX is building Starship to be the most powerful rocket ever made. The projected 7.25 million kg of thrust is nearly double the 4 million kg of thrust produced by the current record holder, Nasa’s Space Launch System (SLS).

SpaceX has already secured a multi-billion dollar contract with Nasa to use Starship as a moon lander, having already worked with the US space agency to deliver astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

The latest of these collaborative missions helped take SpaceX past 200 total launches since it was founded in 2002, with more than 160 of the launches resulting in the rockets landing

“SpaceX had four rockets on four pads and two Dragons on orbit today – as CRS-26 Dragon departed the Space Station with Crew-5 Dragon still attached to the orbiting lab, Falcon Heavy rolled out of the hangar, two Falcon 9’s readied for launch, and Ship 24 was stacked onto Booster 7,” SpaceX tweeted on Monday night.

Discussions between the FAA and SpaceX are ongoing for the Starship launch. The Independent has reached out to SpaceX for comment.