Starship’s fifth launch: SpaceX plans to catch first stage of launch vehicle

The SpaceX team plans to launch the Starship mega rocket for the fifth time at the end of July. According to the company, the next launch could be the most spectacular test flight of the 120-meter rocket.

Starship’s fourth launch. Source: Sean Harris

This time, SpaceX will attempt to catch the first stage of the super-heavy launch vehicle for the first time, allowing it to be used for future flights, saving money on launches. Musk confirmed the July date in response to a post on Platform X that contained an animation of a possible intercept maneuver. “Aiming to try this in late July!” – Musk wrote.

The animation shows a pair of robotic arms on a launch tower clamping a launch vehicle as it returns to Earth after putting the upper stage of the Starship spacecraft into orbit. 

SpaceX has already improved the safe return of the first stage of its smaller Falcon 9 rocket, which lands vertically without the use of robotic arms.

“After takeoff and in-flight stage separation, the Super Heavy will return to the launch pad, fire the engines to slow down, and the tower arms will pick up the booster before installing it on the orbital platform for the next flight,” the document published online said.

Starship, the world’s most powerful rocket, has made four flights since its first launch in April 2023. The most recent flight earlier this month was the most successful, with both Super Heavy and Starship landing successfully before splashdown.

Once fully tested and licensed, the rocket will be used to fly crew and cargo to the moon and could even carry the first humans to Mars. SpaceX hopes to send Starship on its first lunar mission before the end of this decade, although crewed missions to Mars are still a long way off.

We previously reported that SpaceX would build one Starship mega rocket per day. The company’s goal is to produce one mega rocket every day at its new Starfactory, which should help humanity reach the interplanetary frontier.