SPACEX is poised to carry out the first flight test of its latest prototype Starship rocket, which the US firm is developing for manned missions to Mars and beyond.
The craft, dubbed SN9, will soar almost eight miles (12.5km) above a SpaceX facility in Texas as part of a “hop” that could take place as early as Friday.
SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype, SN9, completed a static fire test on Wednesday ahead of its first flightCredit: spadre.com
Airspace restrictions for the area reveal that further backup slots have been set for Saturday and Sunday.
SN9 (Serial Number 9) is SpaceX’s ninth Starship prototype. Its predecessor dramatically exploded last month as it landed following a test flight.
Starship is the next generation of SpaceX rocket designed for long-distance trips to faraway worlds.
The firm hopes to use the rocket to launch astronauts to the Moon and Mars within the next decade, and to set up a Martian colony by 2050.
The silver spacecraft is SpaceX’s ninth Starship test vehicle to dateCredit: spadre.com
SN9 fired up its engines on Wednesday as part of final preparations for its first liftoff, which will follow the same path as last month’s botched flight.
The “static fire” test allows engineers to ignite the huge rocket for a few seconds while it remains bolted to the ground.
Standing upright at SpaceX’s Starship facility in Boca Chica, Texas, the prototype blasted fire and smoke from its powerful Raptor engines.
It’s only the second Starship craft to sport wing tips and a nose cone, and SpaceX fans may see it takes to the skies soon.
Starship is an experimental spacecraft in the early stages of developmentCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Starship is in the early stages of development, and trial “launches” so far have largely taken the form of short hops of a few hundred feet.
These tests involve a single trash can-shaped engine but the final spacecraft will look a lot more like a traditional rocket, sporting a cone-shaped nose.
That all changed on December 8 when SN8 soared 7.8 miles into the air before exploding the moment it hit the ground.
Despite the rocket’s fiery demise, billionaire SpaceX boss Elon Musk – recently crowned the world’s richest man – hailed the launch as a success.
The prototype managed to reach its target height and collected plenty of useful data, the 49-year-old said.
Writing on Twitter before the launch, Musk had warned viewers that there was only a one-in-three chance the rocket would make it back in one piece.
“Lot of things need to go right,” he said. “But that’s why we have SN9 & SN10.”
Billionaire Musk, who is also CEO of Tesla, hopes to send a million people to Mars in his lifetime using a 1,000-strong fleet of the powerful rockets.
What is SpaceX?
Here’s what you need to know…
SpaceX is a cash-flushed rocket company that wants to take man to Mars.
It was set up by eccentric billionaire Elon Musk in 2002 and is based in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX’s first aim was to build rockets that could autonomously land back on Earth and be re-used.
Musk hoped the technology would make flying and operating space flights far cheaper.
SpaceX currently uses its reusable rockets to fly cargo to the International Space Station for Nasa.
It also carries satellites and other space tech into orbit for various international governments and companies.
The company took astronauts up to the ISS for the first time in 2020.
Other future missions involve carrying tourists and astronauts to the Moon.
Musk has repeatedly said he believes humanity must colonise Mars to save itself from extinction.
He plans to get a SpaceX rocket to the Red Planet sometime in the 2030s.
The finished product will stand 165ft (50 metres) tall and boast six of SpaceX’s powerful Raptor engines.
According to SpaceX, the contraption will hit speeds of 15,000mph (25,000kph), making it the world’s most powerful spacecraft.
In a series of tweets earlier this year, Musk outlined how his Starlink plans would open up space travel to anyone, regardless of their income.
“Needs to be such that anyone can go if they want, with loans available for those who don’t have money,” he wrote.
The finished product will stand 165ft (50 metres) tall and boast six of SpaceX’s powerful Raptor enginesCredit: AFP or licensors
Musk’s plan involves building an expansive fleet of Starship vehicles, which comprise a huge rocket topped by a bullet-shaped spacecraft.
SpaceX says reusable rockets that can land and take off again make space travel more cost effective, accessible and sustainable.
However, the team has a long way to go before they can conduct Starship’s first manned flight.
Musk is targeting a Mars cargo missions by 2022 and a manned flight to the Red Planet by 2024.
In other news, SpaceX completed its second successful Starship booster test flight in Setpember.
Musk wants to send humans to Mars as early as 2024 aboard one of the huge rockets.
And, Nasa set a hillside on fire during a recent test of the “most powerful rocket ever built”.
What do you think of Musk’s plans for Starship? Let us know in the comments!
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