SpaceX Starship SN8’s test flight is still fresh, its successor, the SN9, is also getting ready to take off. This highly anticipated high altitude test could even take place this Friday.
As Elon Musk said a few days ago, SpaceX plans to step up its development program for the Starship – its future interplanetary spacecraft – during this year 2021, relying on its facility’s two launch platforms Boca Chica, Texas. A next flight could take place very quickly.
The SN9 prototype, transferred from its hangar to the launch pad on December 24, underwent its first two tests a few days ago – filling the tanks with gaseous nitrogen (ambient test), then filling with gas. Ultra-cold liquid nitrogen (cryo test).
Spread over two days, these tests proved that the SN9 could be successfully pressurized, making it possible to progress towards the famous “static shot”, which precedes the real launch. He just had a successful operation on Wednesday (video at the end of the article). For this test, the Starship was fueled with liquid methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX).
The question arises when will it be launched next?
SpaceX has released no official date. However, clues can be obtained from notices of local road closures, or other information of air and sea restrictions.
In the specific case, we know that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) advisories from Friday until Sunday. During this time, SpaceX will therefore have the opportunity to test its prototype in flight.
Again, it will be for the spacecraft to return to Earth at an angle of descending of about 70-80 degrees, to purge its speed, and then rely on reaction control thrusters in such a way. Return to an upright position to prepare for landing.
It is also quite possible that the company may not take advantage of this launch window for x or y reason, and would rather wait until the next opening.
In the meantime, we also know that the next prototype – the SN10 – is almost ready to succeed it, while future prototypes are already in the assembly phase. More than ever, SpaceX is to multiply the tests before carrying out a first suborbital test at an altitude of 200 km next year.