SpaceX has completed the first-ever wet dress rehearsal of its stacked Super Heavy rocket and Starship spacecraft.
The exercise, which involves fueling SpaceX’s next-generation rocket and working through pre-launch procedures, is an important step toward the vehicle’s first orbital test flight, which could take place in February or March.
The rehearsal took place at SpaceX’s Starbase facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on Monday. SpaceX announced the completion of the test in a tweet, but it omitted to say whether it had been a success.
“Starship completed its first full flight-like wet dress rehearsal at Starbase today,” it said. “This was the first time an integrated Ship and Booster were fully loaded with more than 10 million pounds of propellant.”
If the rehearsal went according to plan, Starship will be removed from the top of the Super Heavy rocket in preparation for a static fire test where the first-stage booster is tethered to the ground before having its 33 Raptor 2 engines fired to ensure they’re behaving as expected.
A successful engine test would then see the Starship placed back atop the rocket for the highly anticipated orbital test flight that will earn the space vehicle a place in the record books as the most powerful ever to fly.
NASA is as keen as anyone for the test flight to take place — and be a success — as it wants to use a modified version of the Starship spacecraft to land the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface as part of the Artemis III mission. The voyage is currently slated for 2025, though that date could slip.
Looking further ahead, the space agency could also use the Super Heavy and Starship for the first crewed mission to Mars, an ambitious endeavor that could take place in the 2030s.
SpaceX also wants to use its new rocket and spacecraft for the first all-civilian moon mission, which will see Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa travel with eight others to our nearest celestial neighbor and perform a flyby of the lunar surface before returning home. The six-day dearMoon mission was originally planned for this year, but with the Super Heavy still to complete its first orbital flight, the mission looks certain to be delayed.