SpaceX’s next-generation launch system designed to take humans beyond low-Earth orbit will at least partially call Florida home, CEO Elon Musk confirmed over the weekend.
When asked where the vehicle known as Starship and Super Heavy would launch from, Musk said both Texas and Florida would host liftoff and assembly operations.
“Working on regulatory approval for both Boca Chica, Texas, and Cape Kennedy, Florida,” he said via Twitter Sunday. “Will also be building Starship and Super Heavy simultaneously in both locations.”
Rocket manufacturing is a prestigious win for Florida, which historically has been designated as the launch site to which assembled vehicles were transported. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, for example, is assembled in California, tested in Texas and moved via truck to Florida for spacecraft integration and launch.
Today, however, companies like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and now SpaceX are planning on building towering vehicles of aluminum and stainless steel right here on the Space Coast.
The future SpaceX vehicle comes in two parts: Super Heavy, a massive booster outfitted with 31 Raptor engines that will lift Starship, a 180-foot-tall spacecraft that can transport humans and cargo beyond low-Earth orbit. The latter has been likened to something out of science fiction thanks to its three-fin design and reflective, stainless steel outer shell.
A prototype of Starship, known as a “hopper,” currently stands at SpaceX’s test site in Texas, where engine tests are expected this week. If all goes according to plan, it will gently lift off on short “hops” that don’t go as high as space, but high enough to test out systems and components.
Much like existing Falcon 9 rockets, Starship and Super Heavy will be reused to lower launch costs, decrease turnaround time and, if all goes according to Musk’s plan, increase access to space. The first full test flight is targeted for no earlier than 2020.
At Kennedy Space Center, meanwhile, SpaceX teams are targeting the first half of April to launch the much-vaunted Falcon Heavy rocket on its first operational flight. On board will be Saudi Arabia’s Arabsat 6A, a large communications satellite that will launch from pad 39A. It marks Falcon Heavy’s first full mission since its wildly popular demonstration flight in February 2018.