SpaceX, a prototype of the Starship SN8 rocket, is at the company’s launch station in Boca Chicago, Texas, before conducting an engine test.
SpaceX aims to launch a prototype of the latest Starship rocket as early as “next week,” CEO Elon Musk said on Tuesday, which would be the company’s most ambitious rocket flight to date.
Musk confirmed that the Starship’s No. 8 prototype or SN8 had successfully completed test operation of its three engines before the flight test. This next launch aims to reach an altitude of about 50,000 feet – well above the prototype’s 500-foot flights of its predecessors, the SN5 and SN6, which passed the flight tests on 5 August and 3 September.
The prototypes are made of stainless steel and represent the first versions of the rocket unveiled by Musk last year. The company is developing Starship with the goal of launching cargo and sending up to 100 people to the Moon and Mars at once.
SpaceX aims to meet several additional development milestones with the Starship SN8 flight.
“The goal is to test the 3 engine lift, the body cover, the transition from the main tank to the head tank and the landing flip,” Musk said in a tweet.
Asked what he thought of whether the Starship prototype landed intact after the flight, Musk gave SN8 a low chance of total success on his first attempt.
“A lot of things have to go well, so maybe a 1/3 chance,” Musk said.
“But that’s why we have SN 9 and SN10,” Musk added.
These later prototypes are already underway at SpaceX’s growing plant in Boca Chica, Texas. While the fleet of SpaceX Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy missiles is partially reusable, Musk aims to make Starship completely reusable – imagining a missile that looks more like a commercial aircraft, with short lead times between flights where the only major cost is fuel. .
Musk said the SN9 and SN10 contain “many small improvements” and “major upgrades” are planned as SpaceX begins work on the SN15 prototype.
The first Starship prototype of SpaceX will be built near Boca Chica, Texas in 2019.
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