Starship SN8 expected to make 50,000-foot flight in Boca Chica
BOCA CHICA, Texas – The remote village of Boca Chica is a place nature has called home. However, the wilderness is sharing its home with a spacecraft and rocket building facility, SpaceX’s Starship facility.
Starship is the spacecraft and two-stage rocket system that Elon Musk hopes will eventually take humans to Mars. One Starship prototype, Serial Number 8 (SN8) is expected to make a nearly 50,000-foot flight this week--what would be the furthest flight of all Starship prototypes.
“I can’t wait to go and see this,” Ray Wysocki, a SpaceX Starship fan who drove his Tesla from Philadelphia.
The Starship is the spacecraft that Elon Musk hopes will eventually take 100 people to Mars. Boca Chica has a rapidly developing private spaceport where the Starship spacecraft will launch. The two-stage vehicle system, also collectively known as Starship, includes the Starship spacecraft which would eventually launch atop a SpaceX Super Heavy Rocket, which has yet to be developed.
For now, SpaceX is working on the Starship spacecraft and is currently rapidly making and testing different iterations of the spacecraft. The Starship Serial Number (SN5) prototype accomplished a long-awaited 500-foot “hop” in August. The SN6 replicated that hop the next month. Now, all eyes are on the SN8, which is currently mounted on the launchpad at the Boca Chica facility.
The SN8, made of 304L steel, is the first Starship prototype that would fly fully outfitted with a nosecone and flaps. It would also be the first prototype to launch by igniting all three Raptor engines.
Elon Musk tweeted Monday that SpaceX will do one static fire test before attempting the launch. The earliest the launch would happen is Wednesday, according to Musk.
“It’s getting people off the planet, making humans multi-planetary -- having a future for humanity,” Wysocki said.
SpaceX’s high-altitude Starship launch debut receives FAA approval
SpaceX has received FAA approval to attempt Starship’s high-altitude launch debut as early as Friday according to a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) filed on December 2nd.
SpaceX’s first high-altitude Starship TFR revealed that the crucial flight test is now scheduled sometime between 8 am and 5 pm CST (14:00-23:00 UTC) on Friday, December 4th, with identical backup windows available (and cleared with the FAA) on Saturday and Sunday. Originally scheduled as early as November 30th, the delays are less than surprising given the complexity and unprecedented nature of the flight test facing SpaceX.
Starship serial/ship number 8 (SN8) – the first functional full-height prototype – is tasked with launching from Boca Chica, Texas to an apogee of 15 kilometers (~9.5 miles) and dropping back to Earth to test an unproven approach to rocket recovery.
Often referred to as a bellyflop or skydiver-style attitude, Starship SN8 will attempt to freefall belly-down back to earth, using four large flaps to maintain a stable approach much like skydivers use their arms and legs to control heading and speed. When landing on planets or moons with relatively thick atmospheres, a controlled freefall could save Starship a huge amount of structural mass (no need for wings or actual airfoils) and propellant – a major benefit for what aims to be the largest reusable orbital spacecraft ever built.
Powered by three Raptor engines capable of producing up to 600 metric tons (1.3 million lbf) of thrust at full throttle, SN8’s launch debut will mark Starship’s first multiengine flight – a major milestone for any rocket prototype. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also recently noted that Starship SN8’s propellant tanks will only be “slightly filled” for its 15 km launch debut, potentially resulting in an extremely healthy thrust to weight ratio at liftoff.
Based on several unofficial estimates, Starship SN8 is also likely to break the sound barrier on ascent, potentially putting the prototype through conditions similar to what an actual orbital launch might see at Max Q (the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure). Further adding to the daunting list of ‘firsts’, SN8’s 15 km debut will be the first Starship hop or flight with a nosecone, making it the first full-scale structural test of a nose section and the methods used to attach it to Starship’s tank section. It’s hard to exaggerate the number of things that could go wrong and the number of ways Starship SN8 could fail during its first flight.
In the interim, SpaceX has taken Starship’s launch delay as an opportunity to perform some kind of additional testing on the evening of December 2nd, involving some kind of cryogenic proof test (using liquid nitrogen) or wet dress rehearsal (WDR; using real liquid methane and oxygen). While there were initial signs that SpaceX would put SN8 through one or several more Raptor static fires before clearing the rocket for flight, it appears that those plans were cancelled earlier this week.
Less testing amplifies the risk that Starship SN8 will fail after liftoff, the probability of which Musk has pegged at ~67%. Regardless, SN8’s launch debut is bound to be spectacular and Starships SN9 and SN10 are nearly ready to take over wherever SN8 leaves off.
Due to a Raptor engine auto-abort at T-1 second, the SpaceX team is standing down from Tuesday's attempt of a high-altitude suborbital flight test of Starship serial number 8 (SN8) from our site in Cameron County, Texas. We have additional test opportunities available on Wednesday, December 9 and Thursday, December 10. The schedule is dynamic and likely to change, as is the case with all development testing. Stay tuned for more information on the next target test date and time.
This suborbital flight is designed to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform to the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle (including its body flaps) to how the vehicle manages propellant transition. SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size.
With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.
This past year alone, SpaceX has completed two low-altitude flight tests with Starship SN5 and SN6 and accumulated over 16,000 seconds of run time during 330 ground engine starts, including multiple Starship static fires and four flight tests of the reusable methalox full-flow staged combustion Raptor engine. Additionally, with production accelerating and fidelity increasing, SpaceX has built 10 Starship prototypes. SN9 is almost ready to move to the pad, which now has two active stands for rapid development testing.
SN8’s flight test is an exciting next step in the development of a fully reusable transportation system capable of carrying both crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and beyond. As we venture into new territory, we continue to appreciate all of the support and encouragement we have received.
There will be a live feed of the flight test available here that will start a few minutes prior to liftoff. Given the uncertainty of the schedule, stay tuned to our social media channels for updates as we move toward our first high-altitude flight test of Starship!
Unmanned SpaceX Starship test flight explodes during landing
The ship was the latest step in Elon Musk's quest to send people to Mars.
„Der Druck im Kraftstofftank war während der Landung niedrig, was zu einer hohen Aufsetzgeschwindigkeit und RUD führte, aber wir haben alle Daten, die wir brauchen! Herzlichen Glückwunsch, SpaceX-Team“, schrieb Elon Musk, Firmenchef von SpaceX auf Twitter.