Starship SN15 rolling out to the launchpad at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas on 8 April, 2021
Starship SN15 rolling out to the launchpad at SpaceX’s Boca Chica facility in Texas on 8 April, 2021

SpaceX launch: Elon Musk says Starship SN15 will fly next week

Fifth major flight test of Mars-bound craft is aiming to be the first that doesn’t end in an explosion

Anthony Cuthbertson@ADCuthbertson
Thursday 15 April 2021 11:25
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SpaceX boss Elon Musk has said the next major flight test of the Mars-bound Starship craft will take place next week.

Raptor engines are currently being fitted to the next-generation spacecraft, following a successful cryogenics test earlier this week.

“Aiming to launch next week,” Mr Musk tweeted on Thursday morning.

Before a high altitude flight test can take place, Starship SN15 will need to complete a static fire test of the newly fitted engines.

Local road closures are already in place with Cameron County for Thursday and Friday, suggesting this test could take place this week.

Official documents filed with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) hint that SpaceX is targeting Tuesday, 20 April, for the flight test.

The filing concerns what appears to be a Starlink receiver that has been placed two thirds of the way up the Starship SN15 prototype, which would provide high-speed internet access to the rocket from SpaceX’s broadband satellite constellation.

“SpaceX requests Special Temporary Authority to operate a single user terminal within 5km of Boca Chica Village, Texas, on an experimental basis at altitudes not to exceed 12.5km,” the FCC request stated.

“SpaceX requests to operate under this STA for a period of 60 days, beginning 20 April, 2020 [SIC].”

SpaceX completes test flight of Mars-bound Starship

All four previous Starship flight tests have ended in an explosion, though all of them made progress by performing a successful lift-off, hover and aerodynamic belly-flop descent.

Starship SN10 was even able to carry out a landing flip manoeuvre and touch down successfully after returning from an altitude of 10km. Eight minutes after landing, however, the rocket blew up as a result of a heavy impact.

The most recent test of SN11, which took place in thick fog, ended in an explosion before the Starship craft even touched the ground.

SpaceX has said the test flights are “all about improving our understanding and development of a fully reusable transportation system” that can ferry people and cargo around the Solar System.

The private space firm has revealed that it plans to perform an orbital Starship flight before July, while the first commercial passengers are already booked in for a trip around the moon in 2023.

A live stream of the latest test flight will be broadcast on SpaceX’s official YouTube channel.

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