SpaceX is on the cusp of conducting a milestone test of its next-generation Starship rocket currently in development in South Texas. Starship Serial Number 8 (SN8), an early prototype version of the reusable rocket and spacecraft design, is now expected to launch as early as December 8. SpaceX will livestream the hop attempt.
The team in Boca Chica, Texas, has been aggressively preparing for Starship’s first high-altitude test in recent days. Starship SN8 currently has a NET, or no earlier than, launch target of Tuesday. Backup days this week currently cover Wednesday and Thursday. Team readiness isn’t the only factor at play in conducting launches; weather conditions and government approval are also factors that can move dates back.
SpaceX currently has FAA-issued temporary flight restrictions (TFR) covering December 8 through December 10, and Camera County in South Texas will issue new road closures before the launch.
Government approval isn’t the only hint that Starship SN8 will conduct its 12.5 kilometer hop test as soon as Tuesday. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk flew from California to Texas over the weekend ahead of the launch attempt expected to happen tomorrow.
SpaceX has also highlighted the upcoming high-altitude test on its homepage in addition to publishing a scheduled livestream of the test flight and publishing these expectation-setting details:
As early as Tuesday, December 8, the SpaceX team will make the first attempt of a high-altitude suborbital flight test of Starship serial number 8 (SN8) from our site in Cameron County, Texas. The schedule is dynamic and likely to change, as is the case with all development testing.
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!
Catch up on Space Explored’s ongoing Starship coverage for more!