SpaceX plans to conduct a wet dress rehearsal of the Starship launch system from its Starbase site in southeastern Texas later this year. If all goes according to plan, this major milestone will pave the way for CEO Elon Musk’s long-haul interplanetary transportation venture to become a reality.
With the first orbital test scheduled for just weeks away, Starship’s heavy-lifter is seemingly on track—albeit with one final key test still to go. The wet dress is a critical series of prelaunch tests that includes propellant loading of both the upper stage and booster, and a run-through of countdown to around T-10 seconds, or just before engine ignition. If no major issues crop up during the testing, the next step would be “de-stacking,” or the separation of the Starship second stage and Super Heavy booster. That would be followed by a full static fire test, where engineers would light up all 33 of the booster’s Raptor 2 engines. After that came launch: reassembly of everything back into its launch configuration before assembling it all back into an enormous Delta II Heavy rocket for liftoff!
SpaceX has been making a lot of progress with its new Starship interplanetary vehicle, but there’s still some work to be done before it can safely launch astronauts into space. The company is currently approaching the FAA for a license to launch astronauts on its orbital flight test, but there are still some uncertainties about the program. SpaceX hasn’t revealed much about the nature of those uncertainties, but they could affect things like how easy it will be to get passengers and cargo into and out of orbit.
The ultimate goal of SpaceX is to send colonists to Mars. To achieve this, the company must first establish a verifiable launch capability that can put large payloads into orbit. With plans to build a giant Starship rocket, it seems clear that SpaceX has its eyes set on taking humans to Mars in the not too distant future.
SpaceX has high hopes for Starship, believing it can revolutionize interplanetary travel. While the company faces many challenges in its attempts to make Starship a reality, NASA is counting on it to play an important role in its Artemis moon program.
The longer it takes for Starship to reach orbit, the greater the risk that something will happen to it. Monsters may have sabotaged the vessel, or space parasites may have decided to settle in for a long stay. Whatever the cause, getting onto course quickly is paramount.