Sunday, September 19, 2021

New SpaceX Starship prototype SN10 could fly as soon as next week


SN10 and its predecessor SN9 on the launch pad in Boca Chica, Texas, in early February.


SpaceX

Just a few weeks after its predecessor SN9 flew high and then crash-landed on Texas’ Gulf Coast, SN10 could try to improve on that performance, as soon as next week.

SN10 and SN9 are the latest iterations of SpaceX and Elon Musk’s Starship prototypes that the company has been developing in full view from its facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Musk has promised that the next-generation rocket will be capable of revolutionary point-to-point travel around the globe, as well as to the moon, Mars and beyond.

Over the past few years, Starship prototypes have progressed from making short, low-altitude “hops” to high-altitude flight demonstrations. The past two serial numbers, SN8 and SN9, have both flown to altitudes comparable to where commercial jets cruise, but then came in for explosive hard landings.

Musk had warned in advance of the tests that he expected such “rapid unscheduled disassembly” events to be part of the development process.

SpaceX SN8 flew high and landed hard.


SpaceX; CNET video capture by Jackson Ryan

Following the flight and crash landing of SN8 in December, the follow-up flight of SN9 suffered a series of delays throughout January. It was revealed that SN8 had been launched without all required approvals from the Federal Aviation Administration, and a kind of staring contest developed as the FAA then took its time to grant the launch license for SN9.

In the end, the FAA was satisfied with the safety precautions for the test flight and SN9 finally flew on Feb. 2. After its fiery return to Earth that afternoon, the FAA announced it would be investigating the landing “mishap.”

On Friday, an FAA spokesperson said via email that the agency has closed the investigation into the landing mishap, “clearing the way for the SN10 test flight pending FAA approval of license updates.”

“The SN9 vehicle failed within the bounds of the FAA safety analysis. Its unsuccessful landing and explosion did not endanger the public or property. All debris was contained within the designated hazard area. The FAA approved the final mishap report, including the probable causes and corrective actions.”

So SpaceX is pressing forward with SN10. A static test firing could happen in the coming days, clearing the way for a launch sometime next week.

Check back here for updates and a livestream once SN10 is ready to fly.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.  



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