SpaceX is developing Starship to transform humans into a multiplanet species. The next-generation launch vehicle will one day transport hundreds of astronauts and tons of cargo to the Moon and Mars. The 165-foot-tall (50 meters) stainless-steel Starship spacecraft and its gigantic Super Heavy rocket booster are under development at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Facility located in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville, Cameron County, TX.
Image Source: TESMANIAN
The aerospace company is currently testing a Starship prototype referred to as “SN8” (Serial No.8). Space enthusiasts have been waiting for Starship SN8 to perform a debut flight for the past weeks. SN8 is the first stainless-steel test vehicle that is fully assembled, it features a trio of powerful Raptor engines and a top nose cone section with aerodynamic fins that resemble the spaceship’s original design. Today, December 8, SpaceX was scheduled to launch Starship SN8 on a test flight of approximately 50,000 feet (15 kilometers). SpaceX teams attempted to launch the vehicle at around 4:30 p.m. CST Texas time, but SN8 detected something abnormal in its engines and automatically aborted the flight. – “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,” the company announced.
Raptor auto-abort at T-1 second— SpaceX (@SpaceX) December 8, 2020
A TESMANIAN correspondent was present at South Padre Island, 5-miles from Boca Chica Beach, to film the launch. You can watch Starship SN8’s launch abort in the video clip below.
Developing the spacecraft that could one day take humans to Mars comes with challenges and set-backs. SpaceX states they 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,” they said. You can watch the next launch attempt Live in the video below.
SpaceX says Starship SN8’s upcoming “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,” the company wrote on its website, “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.”
Starship SN8’s test flight paves the way for the spacecraft’s next development phase. It will be the first time SpaceX tests a trio of methalox-fueled Raptor engines and aerodynamic fins during flight. The company aims to make flying stainless-steel vehicles routine in South Texas and is manufacturing multiple Starship prototypes simultaneously. Each will undergo similar testing towards the development of the launch vehicle. “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,” SpaceX stated.
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.