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SpaceX puts two Starship prototypes on launchpad at same time

By Dandi Galvez Published Feb 02, 2021 5:33 am Updated Feb 02, 2021 5:36 am

Resembling an image from a 1950s sci-fi fantasy TV show, seeing two towering silver starships—standing side-by-side on a launchpad and gleaming in the February sun—is truly a sight to behold.

The snap comes from a tweet by Elon Musk on his official account, featuring SpaceX's Starship SN9 on Pad B and Starship SN10 on Pad A ready to launch from the aerospace company's facility located at South Texas, near Boca Chica Village in the US.

According to a report from, both Starships are the latest versions testing a fully-reusable launch system that would fly astronauts and cargo for deep space missions. Both SN9 and SN10 are powered by three of SpaceX's Raptor engines and are meant for suborbital test flights of up to 10 kilometers.

SN9 was supposed to launch earlier this week, however, officials from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that oversee rocket launches have yet to give SpaceX a thumbs up for the launch.

Responding to a tweet from an account which questioned why the FAA was taking its sweet time, considering that a December 2020 launch with the Starship SN8 went without a hitch, Musk said, "Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure. Their rules are meant for a handful of expendable launches per year from a few government facilities. Under those rules, humanity will never get to Mars."

As of this writing, launch clearance for SN9 is still pending, with SN10 waiting in the wings. Not much is known about the parameters for SN10's test flight other than it will mirror SN9's soon after once the latter gets going. But according to NASA, SN10 has a greater number of TPS (Thermal Protection System) heatshield tiles, and other data points from that launch would likely be compared to the SN9 and SN8 tests.

If you think the test Starships look and sound cool now, you need to wait until they reach their final form. The Starships will be using six Raptor engines to get to outer space, and will launch on top of SpaceX's Super Heavy booster which will use a whopping 30 Raptor engines to get everything into orbit. The Starships are designed to land back on Earth for reuse.

Under NASA's Artemis program which plans to transport astronauts back to the moon, SpaceX is just one of three companies—the other two are Blue Origin and Dynetics—that the space agency has awarded contracts to for the ship design in a race to the stars.

(Images from Elon Musk on Twitter)