Update, 5:15 PM EST Thursday: There will be no attempted launch of the Starship prototype on Thursday, as residents were recently told they could return to Boca Chica Village. Will SpaceX Get Federal Aviation Administration Approval To Launch Friday? Will the vehicle actually be launched? All we really know for now is that the weather looks good, should SpaceX get the green light to go.
Earlier this afternoon, SpaceX charged propellant on Starship and the company started counting down quite deep. It seems very likely that the company was hoping to get a last minute approval from the FAA, but it never came.
Update, Thursday 3:00 PM EST: SpaceX will charge its Starship SN9 prototype with propellant on Thursday afternoon. We know that much. But whether this is for a “wet dress general”, a static fire test or an actual launch, who knows.
After the FAA said Thursday’s 11 a.m. local time launch had been canceled, SpaceX founder Elon Musk replied with the following unfortunate tweet:
Unlike its aircraft division, which is fine, the FAA’s space division has a fundamentally broken regulatory structure.
Their rules are for a handful of replaceable launches each year from a few government facilities. According to those rules, humanity will never get to Mars.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 28, 2021
Then a couple of sources suggested that Musk and the FAA were trying to get final approval for a Thursday launch before closing the window at 6 p.m. CST (24:00 UTC) in South Texas. No new temporary flight restrictions have been put in place, but propellant is being charged. So we really don’t know what to expect. Stay tuned.
Update, Thursday 12:30 PM EST: Just before 11 a.m. local time on Thursday (17:00 UTC), the “Temporary Flight Restrictions” for that day’s launch of the Starship prototype were canceled. It’s not clear why SpaceX and the Federal Aviation Administration called off the attempt, as engineers and technicians were preparing the vehicle for a launch. Nearby residents were also evacuated.
It’s possible the launch was delayed because of wind gusts over 20 mph near the launch site, or because the FAA didn’t give final approval for the 10km launch attempt. Temporary flight restrictions are also in place for Friday, which is now the earliest possible time the vehicle will be able to fly. Friday the weather should be more favorable for SN9.
Update, Thursday 8:00 a.m. EST: Today seems to be the day that SpaceX will attempt to launch its latest Starship prototype, serial number 9, or SN9. The objective is to fly the vehicle to approximately 10 km, demonstrate a controlled descent using the vehicle’s body flaps, and then reorient the Starship so that it makes a vertical landing. The Starship prototype’s final flight attempt, in December, made a fiery landing after a fuel tank pressurization problem.
The start window for Thursday’s test attempt is from 9 a.m. local time in South Texas to 6 p.m. (3 p.m. UTC to midnight UTC). The company has issued evacuation notices to local residents and the weather should be favorable at the launch site along the lower Texas coast. Late Wednesday night, SpaceX had not yet received final approval from the Federal Aviation Administration, but the company’s ongoing preparations indicate that it is expected today.
A webcast of the launch will be embedded in this post when SpaceX goes live with it.
Update, 3:40 PM EST Monday: SpaceX began preparations for a launch Monday, closing roads leading to the trail in South Texas. However, the company failed to evacuate the local residents, indicating there would be no launch attempt on January 25. It’s possible the winds at the launch site were too high — gusts close to 50 mph were noted at the surface.
This now means that the company is likely to try again on Tuesday or Wednesday, when the roads will be closed from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time (18:00-23:00 UTC). By then the wind will be more favorable.
Original Post, Monday 12:57 PM EST: It’s finally time to find out if the Starship prototype will be Serial Number 9 SN Fine or SN Nein†
After a series of static fire tests on its latest Starship prototype, SpaceX appears poised to launch the full-scale vehicle Monday afternoon from its rocket facility in South Texas. The nominal plan is for the prototype to take off to an altitude of up to 12.5 km, perform a “belly-flop” maneuver to simulate energy dissipation during a reentry through Earth’s atmosphere, reorient itself and land in the Earth’s atmosphere. near the launch pad.
Just over six weeks have passed since SpaceX conducted a similar test of the SN8 vehicle in South Texas. That flight test went very well until almost the end of his flight. However, due to a pressure failure in a fuel tank on the top of the vehicle, the vehicle’s Raptor engines ran out of fuel to make a soft landing.
The vehicle thus made a spectacular crash landing in the pad.
Fortunately, the wreckage was quickly cleared. And at the nearby factory, SpaceX had the SN9 vehicle almost ready to go. It may have moved to the launch pad earlier, but in mid-December, the SN9 prototype leaned over and fell into the wall of its high bay. This required several days of cash registers and valve replacements. Then there were problems with the Raptor engines that were discovered during several static burn attempts. All this and more required intensive work to get SN9 ready for its flight.
Sources have said that SpaceX is eager to get SN9 into the sky, as SN10 itself is almost ready to stretch its wings. We can probably expect that vehicle to be moved on the road to the launch site within days of SN9’s flight, regardless of the outcome. Frequent testing to find the bugs is a hallmark of a hardware-rich program like the one SpaceX uses to develop Starship.
The six-hour start window for Monday’s test is from 12:00 PM local time (18:00 UTC) to 6:00 PM (24:00 UTC). As with previous tests, a technical problem could cause the test campaign to abort the launch attempt at any time. If needed, SpaceX will have backup launch options on Tuesday and Wednesday, although weather conditions look more favorable for Tuesday.