SpaceX news: Will SpaceX launch Starship SN9 before the year is over?
SpaceX Starship explodes whilst attempting to land during test
SpaceX has wrapped up its official launch manifesto for the year last week but work is still underway at the company’s Starship facility in Texas. After the fiery conclusion to this month’s SN8 launch, which saw the test rocket fail to stick its landing, Elon Musk’s company appears to be prepping the Starship Serial number 9 (SN9) model for launch later this week. The 165ft-tall (50m) SN9 prototype rolled out onto the launchpad on Tuesday amid reports of road closures around the South Texas facilities today (December 23) and next week (December 28 to December 30).
Ars Technica editor Eric Berger tweeted from South Texas: “SN9 is rolling to the launch pad this morning, less than two weeks after SN8 met its fate.
“Meanwhile, eight more Starship prototypes are in various states of construction in Boca Chica. This is a company with serious intent.
The anticipation surrounding this launch is all the more palpable after the SN9 was briefly put out of commission.
Earlier this month the Starship prototype suffered damage after it collapsed on its own at Boca Chica.
Videos and images of the collapse suggest the stand propping the stainless steel construction gave way but luckily for SpaceX fans, the rocket’s assembly building stopped the rocket from hitting the ground.
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The incident happened just days after the SN8 launched on its first major test flight and reached an altitude of about 7.7 miles (12.5km) before belly flopping to the ground.
Despite the mishap, the rocket has been buffed out and looks ready to be in good condition.
Photographer Austin Barnard, who has been following the SN9’s journey to the launch pad tweeted: “We are living in the first moments of human history where we will settle other worlds.”
And Michael Baylor of NASASpaceflight.com tweeted: “Starship SN9 is rolling out to the Boca Chica launch site today.
“If all goes well, it could perform a flight test within a few weeks.”
In another tweet, he said the SN9 is expected to undergo cryo-proof, static fire and flight testing “in the coming weeks”.
Will Starship SN9 launch before the year is over?
SpaceX has confirmed Starship SN9 is due a high-altitude test flight “up next” although a launch date has not been confirmed.
After the explosive end to SN8’s launch on December 9, SpaceX said: “Thank you to all the locals supporting our efforts in Cameron County and beyond.
“Congratulations to the entire Starship and SpaceX teams on today’s Test.
“Serial number 9 (SN9) is up next – Mars, here we come!”
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It does, however, seem unlikely SN9 will be cleared for launch before the year is out.
SpaceX has established a fairly high turnover for the prototype Mars rockets, churning out new models while previous ones are being tested upon.
But the SN9 will need to be assessed for flight by SpaceX’s engineers, particularly in light of the rocket’s recent damage.
SpaceX will then move onto static fire tests that will see SN9 ignite its three Raptor engine while still being tethered to the ground.
SpaceX will also test the rocket’s cryo tanks, pumping the rocket full of liquid nitrogen, in place of SN9’s rocket fuel.
But if the company ploughs through the tests regardless of the Christmas holidays and New Year, perhaps SpaceX fans could still see the SN9 launch before the end of 2020.
Follow Express.co.uk for the latest information about SpaceX and the Starship programme.
Starship is being developed as a fully reusable rocket capable of ferrying humans and cargo into Earth orbit, the Moon and, most importantly, Mars.
The rocket firm claims Starship will have the capacity to carry up to 100 astronauts at once, in hopes of establishing a human presence on Mars.
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