SpaceX prepares Starship SN8 prototype for high-altitude test flight

SpaceX’s Starship Set for First Major Flight Test Week

SpaceX targeting next week for Starship’s first high-altitude test flight

In a tweet, the executive said that the most recent model, named SN8, had gone through a fruitful static fire, and that a flight test to a height of around 15 km could occur when one week from now.

SpaceX will stream the entire flight test live online, though precise timing details are yet to be announced.

Having now spent more than a month at the launch pad, it's increasingly unlikely that SpaceX will continue to choose caution first for upcoming Starship SN8 tests.

SpaceX looks ready to proceed to the next crucial phase of its Starship spacecraft development program: A 15km (50,000 feet) test flight.

SpaceX's CST has a fixed fire backup window open from 5am to 5pm until November 25, and the launch of Starship SN8 will be closed on November 30 from 1am to 5pm with backup from 5am to 5pm. "Aiming for first 15km/~50k ft altitude flight next week", Musk wrote in the tweet, adding: "Goals are to test 3 engine ascent, body flaps, transition from main to header tanks & landing flip".

Starship is SpaceX's next-generation space transport system, carrying people and payloads to Mars and the Moon, launching satellites into orbit, and developing to do everything SpaceX needs to do. The Starship will be able to land on and take off from places like the moon and Mars without Super Heavy. Starship will sport six Raptors, and Super Heavy will have about 30 engines, Musk said.

The first Super Heavy prototype has not yet been built.

The SN8 Starship prototype is of particular interest to space fans as it bears the closest resemblance yet to the expected final design of the rocket.

Meanwhile, Starship SN10 is likely just 7-10 days away from a similar nosecone stacking milestone and Starship SN11's tank section is just one stack away from completion, likely putting it less than two weeks behind SN10. Earlier prototypes, for example, have come without body flaps and a nose cone, but the SN8 will incorporate both.

Starhopper, SN5 and SN6 aced their brief test flights. Musk isn't giving SN8 great odds of doing the same, though he said it won't be a disaster if the vehicle crashes and burns. The third test didn't go as planned; the Raptors' ignition shattered the top layer of the test pad, sending shards of material into the engine bay and causing a premature shutdown, Musk explained in a tweet last week.

SN8's previous three static fires occurred on October 20, November 10 and November 12. A static fire test is when the rocket is fueled as though it was actually to launch and the engines are then fired up for a few seconds to see if everything is working as it should be.

However, the SN8 will bounce quickly and will fly high soon if everything goes according to plan.

"Mike Wall saidthere"(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book on exploring alien life.

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