It’s a big day for SpaceX, as the Elon Musk-led company is planning to conduct a high-altitude test of its much-anticipated Starship rocket. You can watch the test flight live right here.
We don’t have an exact time for today’s Starship SN8 prototype flight test, but the SpaceX webcast is currently scheduled to begin at 3:00 a.m. AEDT. SpaceX says the launch should happen a few minutes afterwards, but the “schedule is dynamic and likely to change, as is the case with all developmental testing.” You can watch it live in the stream below.
The Starship prototype will be launching from SpaceX’s site in Cameron County, Texas, and it’ll be the company’s first attempt at a high-altitude flight test of this next-generation rocket. Should all go according to plan, Starship SN8 will ascend to a height of at least 12.5 km and then fall back to the surface. To date, SpaceX has completed a pair of low-altitude tests with Starship prototypes SN5 and SN6.
The 50-metre tall rocket is being designed to transport cargo and passengers (possibly as many as 100) to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars, and perhaps even beyond. Starship will be a hybrid vehicle, performing duties as either the second stage of a reusable launch system (with a SpaceX Super Heavy serving as the first stage) and as an independent spacecraft.
For today’s suborbital test flight, SpaceX will keep a close eye on the vehicle’s three Raptor engines to see how they perform and will assess the vehicle’s aerodynamic capabilities. The test will also involve a landing flip manoeuvre, which has never been done before for a vehicle of this size, according to SpaceX. In addition to the three Raptor engines, SN8 is distinguished by a nose cone and body flaps for stabilisation.
A successful test today could lead to orbital test flights of Starship in the near future. But it’s important to not get too ahead of ourselves. As SpaceX put it, with a test like this, “success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.”