The SpaceX Super Heavy rocket looks big, even from space.
On August 9, Maxar Technologies’ WorldView-3 satellite captured an impressive shot of SpaceX’s “Starbase” facility in southern Texas, where the company is building and testing Starship Deep Space Transport System.
SpaceX It develops the Starship to transport people and goods to the Moon, Mars, and other distant destinations. The system consists of two fully reusable components: a 230-foot (70 m) first stage booster known as the Super Heavy and a 165-foot (50 m) spacecraft called the Starship, which sits atop the massive rocket.
The WorldView-3 image captures two different Super Heavy vehicles: Booster 3, which is perched on a sub-orbital launcher near the left edge of the image, and Booster 4, perched on an orbital launcher on the right. Both cars cast long shadows, towering over views of the Gulf Coast and most Starbase structures.
Booster 3 will never fire up. However, the 29-engine Booster 4 is being prepared for the Starship program’s first orbital test flight. The giant craft was lifted onto the orbital launch pad on August 5th. A day later, technicians assembled the Starship’s six-engine prototype SN20 (“Serial No. 20”) atop Booster 4, assembling the longest rocket in history.
On the same day, the massive duo was destroyed, allowing SpaceX to perform additional work on Booster 4 and SN20.
It’s not clear when the Booster 4 and SN20 will fly. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk recently said that the duo should be Ready to go in a few weeks‘Pending regulatory approval’.
This is a reference to the environmental assessment of the Starbase orbital launch site currently being conducted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Approval appears to be at least a month away, given that the FAA will accept public comments for 30 days after a draft revision is released, which has yet to happen.
WorldView-3, operated by Maxar subsidiary DigitalGlobe, was launched into Earth orbit in August 2014. The sharp-eyed satellite is capable of resolving features as small as 12 inches (31 cm) on the surface of our planet.
Mike Wall is the author of “Abroad(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustration by Karl Tate), book on the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
“Proud twitter enthusiast. Introvert. Hardcore alcohol junkie. Lifelong food specialist. Internet guru.”