Starship could get much closer to Mars than it’s ever been by the end of this month, but even if it succeeds it will still have a long way to go.
Elon Musk and SpaceX have continued to improve the company’s next-generation rocket intended to eventually transport thousands of Earthlings to Mars, the moon and other destinations. Over the past 18 months, a handful of short test flights, or “hops,” have seen a few prototypes lift off a pad in Texas, rise to an elevation of about 500 feet (150 meters) and then come back down for a soft landing.
The hops have been remarkable successes so far, interspersed with some dramatic ground test failures along the way. But the next flight of Starship prototype SN8 is likely to be the most spectacular sight so far along the new spacecraft’s development path. Musk has said that he’ll send SN8 nine miles (15 kilometers) into the sky on its test flight.
On Tuesday, he reported that the latest test firing of SN8 had been successful, putting the company on track to attempt to send it toward the lower levels of Earth’s atmosphere.
Beach and road closure notices from Cameron County, Texas, where the SpaceX Starship development facility is located in the community of Boca Chica, indicate that test could come as soon as Monday, Nov. 30. Tuesday, Dec. 1 and Wednesday, Dec. 2 are listed as backup dates.
Musk has downplayed expectations for this first big flight, saying the rocket may not achieve its target altitude.
“A RUD (rapid unscheduled disassembly, aka an explosion) right off launchpad is also possible. Fortunately, SN9 is almost ready,” Musk said in a tweet on Oct. 31.
The Federal Aviation Administration has not yet issued airspace closures for the test, and SpaceX hasn’t confirmed an exact target date, so we will continue to keep an eye on things, as it’s very common for schedules to slip.
Whenever it does happen, it’s sure to be worth watching and Musk has promised to livestream the test, which we’ll be sure to bring you.