SpaceX is preparing to launch the latest prototype of its next-generation Starship rocket on Tuesday in a soaring flight in what will be the company’s most ambitious test to date.
The spaceship prototype Serial Number 8 or SN8 is expected to fly up to 12.5 kilometers or around 41,000 feet, SpaceX confirmed to CNBC. That’s significantly more than the two 500-foot flight tests SpaceX conducted earlier this year on the prototypes SN5 and SN6.
In particular, the goal of the SN8 flight is not necessarily to get to the maximum altitude, but rather to test several important parts of the spacecraft system.
“This suborbital flight was designed to test a range of objectives, from the performance of the vehicle’s three Raptor engines, to the vehicle’s overall aerodynamic entry capabilities (including its body flaps), to how the vehicle controls fuel transfer. SN8 will also try to achieve this. ” A landing-flip maneuver that would be a first for a vehicle of this size, “SpaceX said in a statement on its website.
Given the numerous development milestones the company is taking with the SN8 flight, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk gave the rocket little chance of complete success on the first try.
“A lot of things have to go right, so maybe 1/3 chance,” said Musk.
The spaceship SN8 is made of stainless steel. The prototypes represent the early versions of the rocket that Musk introduced last year. The company is developing Starship with the aim of bringing cargo and up to 100 people simultaneously on missions to the moon and Mars.
While the SpaceX fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship fully reusable – a rocket that looks more like an airliner, with short turnaround times between flights where the only major costs are fuel.
The company builds and tests the Starship prototypes at its growing facility in Boca Chica, Texas. The facility on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 20 miles east of the Texas city of Brownsville on the Mexican border.
The spacecraft’s SN8 prototype rocket will be on the launchpad at the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas on November 10, 2020.
SpaceX also found that it had completed more than 16,000 seconds – or nearly four and a half cumulative hours – of testing its Raptor range of motors, which were built to power Starship.
Three of SpaceX’s Raptor engines at the base of the Starship rocket.
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