Starship’s third flight: Super Heavy launch vehicle decorated with Christmas lights and a Christmas tree

SpaceX has shared stunning images showing the Super Heavy launch vehicle — the most powerful rocket ever built — being moved to the launch pad ahead of the third test flight of the Starship spacecraft.

A decorated transport platform at the Starbase pad ahead of the next Starship launch. Photo: SpaceX

Take a close look at the image above and you’ll see that the transporter, which carries a 71-metre-high launch vehicle, is decorated with Christmas decorations, including colourful lights, a Christmas tree and a model of Santa Claus. And to get a sense of scale, look at the man on the far right of the frame.

In the other two images, you’ll also see SpaceX’s Gateway to Mars sign, a hint that the company will use its launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas, for the first human mission to Mars, likely in the 2030s.

Semi-successful flights

The Super Heavy first stage rocket (Booster 9) is used as the launch first stage for the Starship spacecraft. After testing the booster on the launch pad, the Starship, which has long been ready and is “posing” in the other two images, will later be lifted and mounted on top of the Super Heavy rocket in preparation for the third test flight.

Gateway to Mars
The transport platform at the Starbase pad with the Gateway to Mars sign in the background. Photo: SpaceX

This rocket, which produces about 7,000 tonnes of thrust at launch, is the most powerful rocket in operation today. Starship has already made two “semi-successful” test flights, the last of which took place in November. In both cases, the powerful rocket took off from the launch pad but soon exploded. During the first flight in April, the rocket failed to achieve stage separation and was destroyed. The second flight in November started successfully. However, after a while, the super-heavy launch vehicle exploded, followed by the Starship, which also exploded before reaching orbit. However, SpaceX considers the second flight to be partially successful.

Надпис Gateway to Mars на стартовому майданчику SpaceX
The Gateway to Mars inscription on the SpaceX launch pad

SpaceX hopes for a complete success of the third flight, during which Starship will reach orbit before landing off the coast of Hawaii.

When will the third Starship flight take place?

The date of the next test mission has not yet been confirmed. Currently, the private space company is waiting for the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to complete its investigation into the crashes during the second flight. Only then will it consider granting SpaceX permission for the next launch.

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said last month that Starship would be ready to fly again by the end of this year. However, with the FAA’s investigation ongoing, this is looking less and less likely.

Earlier, we reported on how SpaceX released dramatic footage of the Starship’s double explosion.

Based on the materials of Digital Trends