Featured Image Source: Digital depiction created by @Neopork85 via Twitter
We will soon see a SpaceX’s Starship SN8 prototype lift off approximately 50,000 feet (15-kilometers) above Boca Chica Beach in South Texas! The launch will be the company's first higher altitude test flight performed by a stainless-steel prototype of the Starship spacecraft SpaceX is developing to colonize Mars. –“I think the most important thing is to create a self-sustaining city on Mars,” the founder of SpaceX Elon Musk says, “That’s, I think, the critical thing for maximizing the life of humanity; how long will civilization last.” Musk hopes the vehicle could one day launch hundreds of astronauts to build the first settlement on the Red Planet. SpaceX is working on an ambitious schedule to make life multiplanetary in our lifetime. The company targets to launch a Starship with cargo to the Martian surface by 2022, followed by the first crewed mission 2026, potentially as early as 2024 if the company ‘gets lucky’, Musk says.
Teams at the SpaceX South Texas Launch facility will attempt Starship SN8’s high-altitude suborbital test flight tomorrow, Tuesday, December 8. –“The schedule is dynamic and likely to change, as is the case with all development testing,” the company announced today. “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,” SpaceX wrote in the test flight announcement.
Starship SN8 will be the first stainless-steel test vehicle that will be fully assembled, featuring a top nose cone section and aerodynamic fins – that look like the spacecraft's original design, as pictured above. The company is building multiple prototypes at the Boca Chica assembly facility, where two test vehicles - SN5 and SN6 - have already completed low-altitude test flights. These vehicles did not look like a spacecraft, they looked like a shiny cylinder structure tank, with a square mass simulator atop. Each lifted off 150-meters off the ground and conducted vertical landings at the launch pad powered by a single methane-fueled Raptor engine. Starship SN8 will be the first test vehicle - that looks like a spaceship - to attempt a higher altitude test flight powered by a trio of Raptor engines.
–“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,” SpaceX stated, “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,” the company wrote. According to Cameron County Boca Chica Beach road closure announcements, the launch could take place sometime on December 8th from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time, with back-up launch opportunites scheduled for December 9 through 10 at the same time [all dates are subject to change]. You can watch the Starship SN8 test flight Live in the video below, courtesy of SpaceX.
WATCH IT LIVE!
About the Author
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.