SpaceX aims to launch the most powerful rocket ever built following permission from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Monday. The agency said in a statement: “After a comprehensive review of licensing, the Federal Aviation Administration determined that SpaceX had met all safety, environmental, policy, payload, airspace integration, and financial responsibility requirements.”
The spacecraft, consisting of the first stage of the Super Heavy Booster and the upper stage Starship, will launch from SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on its first orbital flight. The expected short flight will see the Starship separate from the Super Heavy Booster shortly after leaving. As the Starship continues into orbit, the booster will descend into the Gulf of Mexico and will not be recovered, but future missions will see the booster land in a controlled manner for reuse.
The spacecraft is expected to reach an altitude of around 146 miles (235 kilometers) before landing in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii after about 90 minutes of liftoff. Like the Super Heavy, there will be no recovery process, although future trips will attempt to land the spacecraft so it can be used again.
The immense power of the Super Heavy will make the launch a stunning sight. When the 395-foot (120-meter) Super Heavy explodes, its 33 Raptor engines will create 17 million pounds of thrust. The current record is held by NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), which generated 8.8 million pounds of thrust when it first launched in November on the uncrewed Orion spacecraft mission Artemis I headed to the moon. It is much more powerful than the Saturn V rocket, which produced about 7.6 million pounds of thrust during its launches in the late 1960s and early 1970s.