SpaceX moves a massive rocket with 33 engines to its launch pad for tests

Enlarge / A fully stacked Starship and Super Heavy rocket are seen in February, 2022, during fit checks on the orbital launch tower. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

It has been a long time since SpaceX launched a rocket from South Texas. After a flurry of seven Starship prototype test flights from August 2020 through May 2021, the company has not flown from its launch pads near Boca Chica Beach.

There are good reasons for this hiatus and good reasons to believe it may soon change as SpaceX makes progress toward an orbital launch attempt from South Texas later this year.

The seven launches of a full-scale Starship prototype gradually pushed the envelope, beginning with two 150-meter hops before moving to flights as high as 12.5 km to demonstrate a belly-flop maneuver that will be needed during the vehicle’s return through Earth’s atmosphere. The flight test program culminated with a successful soft-landing of Starship after a 10 km flight.

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