SpaceX conducted the first high-altitude Starship test flight on Wednesday, December 9th, with the SN8 prototype of a spacecraft under construction to transport astronauts back to the Moon and colonize Mars. Starship SN8 took off from the Launch Pad at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Facility in Boca Chica Beach. Starship SN8 conducted a “belly flop” dive in-flight as engineers tested the aerodynamic flaps of the vehicle. The 7-minute-long test flight was amazing. SN8 glided down the sky and attempted to land powered by its three Raptor engines, but exploded a few seconds before landing because the “Fuel header tank pressure was low during landing burn, causing touchdown velocity to be high & RUD [Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly],” Chief Engineer Elon Musk, SpaceX founder, said via Twitter after the test flight, “But we got all the data we needed! Congrats SpaceX team hell yeah!!”
According to an official statement released by the Cameron County website confirming Boca Chica Beach road closures, SpaceX now plans to rollout the next Starship concept, SN9, to the launch pad as soon as Monday. A SpaceX representative scheduled the rollout of Starship SN9 to the launch site from 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m. on December 14th Central Time. “We can work to transport the crane and SN9 to the launch area on Mon. Dec. 14. […] The wind is not that good on Monday morning and we have very strict requirements on these tall transports,” the representative of SpaceX wrote to the city official of Cameron County.
We can see SpaceX teams in the days ahead planning to rollout Starship SN9 to the launch pad less than 3 miles from the assembly site where SN9 is waiting inside a high bay. This morning, the Starship SN9 vehicle tipped to its side inside the high Bay and teams are currently working to get it out of the assembly building. What caused the stainless-steel vehicle to tip to its side is unknown, but live video footage reveals that it tipped early in the morning.
We should expect to see another high-altitude test flight soon in South Texas if Starship SN9 is not damaged. SpaceX plans to make Boca Chica’s flying stainless-steel vehicles routine. Simultaneously, several Starship designs are under construction, each will undergo testing to improve the spacecraft. To speed-up Starship’s development, a high production and iteration rate is needed. SpaceX has the Starship SN10 and SN11 research vehicles currently under assembly if SN9 has sustained any harm today. In the video below you can watch the company’s operations live via YouTube, courtesy of LabPadre.
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