The next-generation rocket is designed for missions to the Moon and eventually Mars.

The big reinforcement will play an important role in NASA Artemis Program, which aims to return astronauts to the moon and establish bases on the lunar surface. If successful, the rocket will not only pave the way for more regular flights to the moon, but also reduce the cost of such trips.

“Starship has an opportunity to really revolutionize the way we do space transportation, so it’s a big deal,” said Laura Forczyk, CEO of Astralytical, an Atlanta-based space consulting firm.

Starship is what’s known as a super-heavy launch vehicle, which refers to rockets that can carry more than 110,000 pounds into orbit. SpaceX has said that its reusable Starship could lift up to 330,000 pounds to low Earth orbit.

Starship is expected to launch on its first uncrewed orbital flight this year, though SpaceX hasn’t announced a specific date. Last month, the company said it had completed a «wet dress rehearsal,» which involved fully loading the rocket with 10 million pounds of propellant, as it would be done before liftoff.

Next, SpaceX will likely perform another key safety test by firing all 33 Raptor engines in the propellant’s first stage, a demonstration known as a «static fire test.» Then, once the company gets a license from the Federal Aviation Administration, Starship could finally lift off from SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas launch site.

vulcan centaur

Another new rocket that could play a pivotal role in the coming years is the Vulcan Centaur, developed by the Denver-based United Launch Alliance.

The heavy-lift Vulcan Centaur is designed to carry satellites and other spacecraft to various orbits around Earth. The roughly 200-foot-tall rocket will be used for commercial launches, as well as launches on behalf of NASA and the Space Force.

The Vulcan Centaur is expected to eventually replace United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V and Delta IV Heavy rockets.

The various parts of the rocket are assembled at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida before its maiden flight. That launch, known as Certification-1, will carry two demonstration satellites into low-Earth orbit, place a commercially built lunar lander in a highly elliptical orbit above Earth, and deliver another payload on a trajectory that will take it past Earth. the Earth-Moon. system.

The debut of Vulcan Centaur represents an exciting opportunity for the United Launch Alliance, a long-time contractor for NASA and the military. It also configures the new booster to replace some of the most widely used rockets currently available, according to Anderson, the technology historian.

«With Atlas V and Delta IV presumably in retirement, this rocket is very important to US launch capabilities right now,» Anderson added.

Ariane 6

American space companies aren’t the only ones busy designing new rockets that could take off this year. France-based Arianespace is preparing a new booster called Ariane 6 for its maiden launch.

The nearly 200-foot-tall rocket is designed to put satellites and other payloads into orbit around Earth. The booster is expected to replace the heavy-lift Ariane 5 rocket, although it would be capable of operating at lower cost.

Anderson said that Ariane 6 will provide significant mid-range launch capabilities, but will likely face stiff competition from other companies, including SpaceX.

Like the other Arianespace rockets, Ariane 6 will launch from a spaceport in South America, located northwest of Kourou in French Guiana.

A specific date for the first test flight has not yet been announced.

H3 rocket

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency is preparing its new rocket for its maiden flight this month.

The booster, known as the H3, will launch an Earth observation satellite into orbit on the test flight. Liftoff is currently scheduled for February 12.

The rocket will be launched from Japan’s Tanegashima Space Center on the southeast coast of Tanegashima, an island south of Kyushu.

Other rockets in the works

Several other private American companies are also developing new rockets that could fly this year or for years to come.

Relativity Space, a Los Angeles-based aerospace company, aims to unveil a 3D-printed rocket dubbed Terran 1. While 3D-printed parts have been used to build propellants before, this would be the first rocket developed entirely with additive manufacturing. .

ABL Space Systems, a company based in El Segundo, California, tried to launch its RS1 rocket on its debut flight last month, but was unsuccessful. The January 10 launch took place at the Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska, on Kodiak Island. Shortly after scheduled liftoff, ABL reported that the rocket was unable to reach orbit.

«After liftoff, RS1 experienced an anomaly and shut down prematurely.» the company tweetedadding that he was working with officials from the FAA and the Alaskan spaceport afterwards.

Although not a new rocket, California-based Rocket Lab launched its Electron rocket for the first time on US soil January 24. Previous Rocket Lab missions have occurred in New Zealand. For the Virginia launch, the booster lifted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, carrying three small satellites into orbit. The company is developing a new rocket, called the Neutron, but doesn’t expect the booster to fly until next year.