The SpaceX Starship SN8 prototype rocket stands on the company’s launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas, ahead of an engine test.
SpaceX aims to launch its latest prototype Starship rocket as early as “next week,” CEO Elon Musk said on Tuesday, in what would be the company’s most ambitious flight test to date.
Musk confirmed that the prototype spacecraft serial number 8, or SN8, passed a fire test of its three engines before the attempted flight. This upcoming launch aims to reach around 50,000 feet above sea level – well above the 500-foot flights of prototype predecessors SN5 and SN6, which completed flight tests on August 5 and September 3, respectively.
The prototypes are constructed from stainless steel and represent the earliest versions of the rocket that Musk unveiled last year. The company is developing Starship with the aim of launching cargoes and up to 100 people on a mission to both the Moon and Mars.
SpaceX aims to take several additional development milestones with the flight of Starship SN8.
“The goals are to test the 3 engine climb, body flaps, the main tank to main tank transition and the landing flip,” Musk said in a tweet.
Asked what he thought of the chances of the Starship prototype landing intact after the flight, Musk gave SN8 a low chance of complete success on the first try.
“A lot of things have to be okay, so maybe 1/3 of luck,” Musk said.
“But that’s why we have SN 9 and SN10,” Musk added.
These latest prototypes are already underway at SpaceX’s growing facility in Boca Chica, Texas. While SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship fully reusable – by imagining a rocket that looks more like a commercial aircraft, with short turnaround times between flights. where the only major cost is fuel.
Musk said that SN9 and SN10 have “a lot of small improvements,” with “major upgrades” planned once SpaceX begins work on the SN15 prototype.
SpaceX’s first prototype spacecraft under construction near Boca Chica, Texas, in 2019.
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