SpaceX is preparing to launch its new Starship rocket system on an uncrewed test flight from Texas. The rocketship stands at 394 feet (120 m) high and is due to launch from the SpaceX facility at Boca Chica during a two-hour launch window. The test mission, which represents a key milestone in SpaceX's ambition to send humans back to the moon and ultimately to Mars, will provide crucial data about how the rocket ascends to space and how it will fly back to Earth.
The lower-stage Super Heavy booster rocket and the upper-stage Starship cruise vessel are both designed as reusable components, capable of flying back to Earth for soft landings. Neither stage will be recovered for the expendable first test flight to space, which is expected to last no more than 90 minutes. If all goes as planned, the Starship will complete a full orbit of the Earth before it re-enters the atmosphere and free-falls into the Pacific at supersonic speed about 60 miles (97 km) off the northern Hawaiian islands.
As designed, the Starship rocket is nearly two times more powerful than NASA's own Space Launch System. Musk said this is the first step in a long journey that will require many flights. Additional Super Heavy boosters are already on deck in Boca Chica for future test flights. SpaceX faces enormous challenges in merely launching a spacecraft that would instantly become the most powerful rocket on Earth. Watch it live here.