Elon Musk says first altitude test of SpaceX’s Starship rocket could take place as early as Wednesday – but it has only a one in three chance of landing safely
- SpaceX Starship is 120 feet high including the nose cone and can hold 100 feet
- Elon Musk says there is a ‘fighting chance’ he could fly to Mars as early as 2024
- To meet that date, it has to pass a series of increasingly complex tests
- This includes flying up to nine miles in the air and landing safely
- That ‘altitude test’ is expected to take place sometime from tomorrow
SpaceX Starship will fly nine miles into the air later this week, according to Elon Musk, who says it has a one in three chance of landing safely.
The massive spaceship heavy-duty two-stage to orbit vehicle has been in development since 2012 and is designed to reduce the cost of launch by being reusable.
Musk says the rocket’s first “altitude test” will fly nine miles above the Boca Chica facility in Texas this week, possibly tomorrow.
Developing a spaceship that could potentially reach the Moon or Mars directly from Earth requires extensive testing, including landing on Earth from a height.
However, Elon Musk tweeted that “ a lot of things have to go right ” for it to land on solid ground again after the nine-mile journey – giving it a one-in-three chance.
The massive Starship two stage to track heavy vehicle vehicle has been in development since 2012 and is designed to reduce the cost of launch by being reusable (artist’s impression)
SpaceX is one step closer to launching its Starship SN8 prototype nine miles up after a series of successful static fire tests at its Texas facility
If this latest flight test – firing the triple Raptor engine and lifting the 400ft spaceship into the air – is successful, further, higher-level tests are likely to follow.
The final high-altitude test is sometime between Wednesday and the end of the week in pencil, but test times and dates may change in the short term.
Nine miles up isn’t enough to take it into space – but since all previous ‘hops’ have been measured in feet rather than kilometers – it’s a significant step forward.
NASA and others have agreed that the edge of space is 50 miles above sea level, but to enter orbit you must be at least 100 miles above sea level.
Last week, Musk tweeted: ‘Good Starship SN8 static fire! Aim for the first flight of 15 km / ~ 50 km altitude next week. The goal is to test 3 engine rises, body flaps, transition from main to head tanks and landing flap. ‘
The landing is one of the most important aspects – because it must be completely reusable to achieve the goals and price per flight set by the SpaceX team.
There are a number of potential uses for Starship – including deploying hundreds of satellites in Earth orbit simultaneously and landing astronauts on the Moon and Mars.
SpaceX’s CEO previously said there was a “ fighting chance ” that the first Starship flight to Mars could take place as early as 2024 – the year NASA plans to return the first woman and the next man to the surface of the moon.
If this latest flight test – firing the triple Raptor engine and lifting the 400ft spaceship into the air – is successful, further, higher-level tests are likely to follow
However, if SpaceX gets from a nine-mile test flight – assuming it lands successfully – to the nearly 40 million miles to Mars, it may take some effort.
Starship’s latest prototype, dubbed SN8, completed a static fire test yesterday at the SpaceX Boca Chica development facility in Texas.
When operational, it is hoped that a single Starship launch will cost around $ 2 million per trip – a Falcon 9 launch currently costs $ 51 million if components are reused.
The spaceship consists of two parts: the Super Heavy booster and the rocket ship that can transport up to 100 people to Mars at a time.
Standing at nearly 120 meters, ‘a lot can go wrong’ landing such a large vessel on solid ground – previous ‘short hops’, however, were a success.
SpaceX’s Starship has a “fighting chance” to launch its first unmanned mission to Mars in just four years, founder and CEO Elon Musk claims. Pictured, a prototype spaceship
According to reports, other prototypes of the Starship craft are also ready to be tested should this flight fail.
SN8 is the first prototype with a nose cone and nose fins that aid in high-altitude testing. The previous ‘short hops’ were carried out with prototype SN6.
That spaceship just had a “mass simulator” at the top that weighed as much as a nose.
Musk says he has SN9 and SN10 ready for use, as they were developed in parallel with SN8 and follow the theme of “ building successive generations of prototypes ” so they can quickly test and repeat.
WHAT IS ELON MUSK’S ‘BFR’?
The BFR (Big F *** ing Rocket), now known as Starship, will complete all missions and is smaller than the one Musk announced in 2016.
The SpaceX CEO said the rocket would make its maiden voyage to the red planet in 2022, carrying cargo only, followed by a manned mission in 2024, and claimed that other SpaceX products would be ‘cannibalized’ to pay for it.
The rocket would be partially reusable and could fly directly from Earth to Mars.
Once built, Musk believes the rocket could be used for travel on Earth – he says passengers can get anywhere within an hour.