Taking to Twitter this past week, Space X founder Elon Musk shared images of a fully stacked starship. A dream come true for the billionaire who is passionate about space exploration. In a separate tweet, Musk also appreciated the team being the project writing. "An honor to work with such a great team."
What does a stacked starship mean?
SpaceX has developed its own shuttle for space exploration called the Starship SN20. This shuttle has to be combined with a boose or rocket so that it can be launched into space. Last week, the company conducted a 'stacking test' at its facility in Boca Chica, Texas which lasted around one hour. During the test, the Starship SN20 was stacked on top of SpaceX's super heave booster. The goal was to ensure that the two components fill together correctly and to identify any issues that need to be addressed.
Once the two components were stacked on top of each other, they made for the largest rocket ever built. This record used to be held by NASA's Saturn V which was 111 meters (363) feet tall. The Saturn 5 was last launched in 1973. SpaceX's stacked starship stood at 120 meters (394 feet).
What does SpaceX have planned?
The stacking test was conducted in preparation for SpaceX's planned orbital flight for the Starship. The company aims to launch the Starship from Starbase (i.e the aforementioned facility in Boca Chica, Texas) for an orbital flight. The goal is for the shuttle to return and make a targeted soft ocean landing off the northwest coast of Kauai, an island in Hawaii. SpaceX's Starship system is mean to provide lift capabilities into Earth's orbit and to the Moon and Mars. The rocket is capable of handling loads for up to 100 people at a time or 100 tons of cargo.
The recent billionaire's space race
Over the past few years, we have seen a new space race, not amongst nations but between billionaires. Virgin's Richard Branson, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and SpaceX's Elon Musk have all launched their own space-related ventures. Bezos has the company Blue Origins which has even managed to snag some lucrative contracts with NASA. Last month the company made headlines with its successful launch and trip to the edge of space. The company's rocket also got attention for its unmistakably phallic shape. Richard Branson also made news by becoming the first billionaire to go into space. However, there seems to be some contention on whether or not Branson's flight reached a high enough altitude to count as a space flight. White SpaceX and Blue Origin are focused on partnering with governmental agencies like NASA and their lucrative contracts, Branson's Virgin Galactic is more focused on making space tourism more accessible to everyday people.
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Featured image: Twitter @elonmusk