SpaceX is planning its most ambitious flight test to date involving a prototype of its next-generation Starship spacecraft.
The commercial space company attempted to launch the SN8 prototype on Tuesday afternoon from its site in Boca Chica in Texas, but the countdown halted just one second from launch. We’re now waiting for details of a new launch window.
If the test goes according to plan, we’ll see the SN8 fly higher into the sky than any previous Starship prototype, all of which have merely “hopped” a few hundred feet into the air before landing back on the ground.
Powered by three Raptor engines, SpaceX is aiming to send the prototype spacecraft and second-stage booster to an altitude of around 50,000 feet (about 15,000 meters) — some 15,000 feet higher than a passenger plane usually flies. The vehicle will then return to Earth and land upright on the ground in the same way that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 boosters have been doing for years.
“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,” SpaceX said. “SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size.”
If the prototype performs well during the test, it will take SpaceX a big step closer to launching Starship atop the massive first-stage Super Heavy rocket, which is powered by 31 Raptor engines.
The ultimate aim is to use the Starship and Super Heavy rocket as a fully reusable space transportation system capable of carrying as many as 100 people and cargo to Earth orbit, the moon, Mars, and possibly beyond.
Once the team has decided on a new launch window, SpaceX will launch its livestream shortly before lift-off. You can watch it in the embedded player at the top of this page. We’ll update this article when we have details of the new launch window, and you can also check the company’s social feeds for the very latest information.
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