Update for 1:45 pm ET: SpaceX is apparently not attempting a Starship SN15 test flight today and road closures were lifted near their Starbase facility. The video above is provided by NASASpaceflight.
SpaceX may launch its latest Starship prototype from the company’s Starbase test site in South Texas soon, but exactly when is unclear.
Starship SN15 (“Serial No. 15”), SpaceX’s newest vehicle, could fly on a high-altitude test soon from the company’s facility near Boca Chica Village in South Texas. Officials with Cameron County, which includes the test site, lifted a road closure alert today (April 30) for a potential test flight.
The Federal Aviation Administration has issued flight restriction notices for pilots in the area that from Friday through Sunday (April 30-May 2) in case SpaceX opts to try for a weekend flight.
If SpaceX does attempt a test flight, you can watch it live courtesy of a SpaceX webcast. SpaceX typically begins the webcasts 5 or 10 minutes before liftoff. You can also follow along with Starship-watching sites like this YouTube feed from NASASpaceflight, feeds from SPadre.com, LabPadre and this stream from Everyday Astronaut.
On Wednesday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that it has authorized SpaceX’s plans to launch SN15, as well as two more vehicles — SN16 and SN17 — in the weeks ahead.
“The FAA has authorized the next three launches of the SpaceX Starship prototype,” FAA officials wrote in a statement. “The agency approved multiple launches because SpaceX is making few changes to the launch vehicle and relied on the FAA’s approved methodology to calculate the risk to the public. ”
SN15 is SpaceX’s fifth version of Starship to fly in less than five months. SpaceX conducted engine tests of the rocket earlier this week to set the stage for the upcoming launch.
The first Starship to fly, SN8, launched Dec. 9 and flew well, but crashed during landing. Each of the three other Starship flights (of SN9, SN10 and SN11), had similar fates. The SN10 launch did manage to land but exploded a few minutes after touchdown. None of those flights aimed for space, instead targeting an altitude of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers).
SpaceX is developing the Starship vehicle as part of a fully reusable heavy-lift launch system that will also include a massive booster called Super Heavy. SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said Starship will be the core of the company’s deep-space rocket fleet for trips to the moon and Mars.
NASA has tapped the Starship vehicle to land its Artemis astronauts on the moon. SpaceX has also sold a private flight around the moon using Starship to Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa, who is searching for eight crewmembers to fly with him.
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