SpaceX may attempt to test fire — then launch — its latest Starship rocket prototype at the company’s South Texas facility on Friday (March 26).
Officials in Cameron County, Texas, which is home to SpaceX’s Starship test site near Boca Chica Village, have approved road closures ahead of an engine test and launch of the Starship SN11 vehicle on Friday. SpaceX’s window for the launch opens at 8 a.m. EDT (7 a.m. local time, 1200 GMT) and runs for over 12 hours.
“I have ordered the closer of Boca Chica Beach and Hwy 4 for the purpose of protecting Public Health and Safety during SpaceX engine testing and 10 km flight, in the time period between 7:00 a.m. C.S.T. to 7:30 p.m. C.S.T., of the same day,” Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino, Jr., said in a statement. “If members of the public would like to view the flight, please do so from a safe distance and away from Boca Chica Beach.”
SpaceX’s Starship SN11 rocket is the latest prototype for a fully reusable spacecraft capable of missions to the moon and beyond. The company is developing the 165-foot-tall (50 meters) rocket and a massive booster called Super Heavy to fly astronauts and other gear to the moon and Mars. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk unveiled the first Super Heavy prototype, a test version that will not fly, last week.
As its name suggests, the SN11 rocket is SpaceX’s 11th Starship prototype. The private spaceflight company has launched three other prototypes so far— SN8, SN9 and SN10 — from its facility near Boca Chia Beach, though none of them ultimately survived.
The Starship SN10 prototype was the first to actually land, but exploded a few minutes after touchdown. SpaceX has been tweaking Starship’s design with each launch to improve its performance.
On Monday (March 26), SpaceX test-fired its Starship SN11 rocket, setting the stage for an upcoming test flight. Like its recent predecessors, SN11 is powered by three of SpaceX’s Raptor engines. It is expected to launch to an altitude of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers), then flip over for a descent back to Earth and flip over once more for a controlled landing using its engines.
SpaceX has already lined up customers for its Starship vehicle even as the company continues to refine the design of the spacecraft and its Super Heavy booster.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has signed up for a trip around the moon aboard a Starship for himself and eight other people. That mission, called “dearMoon,” is targeted to launch in 2023. NASA has also selected Starship as one of three contenders to land astronauts and payloads on the moon as part of the space agency’s Artemis program.
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