SpaceX can try to test fire – and then launch – its latest rocket prototype from Starship at the company’s South Texas facility on Friday 26. March.
Officials in Cameron County, Texas, home of SpaceX’s Starship test site near Boca Chica Village, have approved the closure of roads ahead of an engine test and the launch of the Starship SN11 vehicle on Friday. SpaceX has not stated that it will actually try
an SN11 launch, but the test window opens at 8 a.m. EDT (7 a.m. local time, 1200 GMT) and runs for over 12 hours, according to Cameron County officials.
“I have booked closer to Boca Chica Beach and Hwy 4 to protect public health and safety during testing of the SpaceX engine and 10 km flight, in the time period between 7:00 CST and 7:30 CST, of the same day,” said Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino, Jr., in a statement. “If the public wants to watch the flight, you can do so from a safe distance and away from Boca Chica beach.”
Related: NASA astronauts take a closer look at SpaceX’s Starship SN11 (photo)
SpaceX’s Starship SN11 rocket is the latest prototype for a fully reusable spacecraft capable of missions to the moon and beyond. The company is developing the 165 meter high (50 meter) rocket and a massive booster called Super Heavy to fly astronauts and other equipment to the moon and Mars. SpaceX chief Elon Musk unveiled the first Super Heavy prototype, a test version that will not fly, last week.
As the name suggests, the SN11 rocket is SpaceX’s 11th Starship prototype. The private space company has so far launched three other prototypes – SN8, SN9 and SN10 – from the facility near Boca Chia beach, although none of them eventually survived.
The Starship SN10 prototype was the first to actually land, but exploded a few minutes after being touched. SpaceX has adjusted the Starship design with each launch to improve performance.
On Monday, March 26, SpaceX tested its Starship SN11 rocket and set the stage for an upcoming test flight. Like its recent predecessors, the SN11 is powered by three of SpaceX’s Raptor engines. It is expected to start at an altitude of 10.2 kilometers (10 kilometers), then turn around for a descent back to earth and turn around again for a controlled landing using the engines.
SpaceX has already lined up customers for its Starship vehicle, although the company continues to refine the design of the spacecraft and its Super Heavy booster.
Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa has signed up for a trip around the moon aboard a Starship for himself and eight other people. That mission, called “dearMoon”, is set to launch in 2023. NASA has also selected Starship as one of three candidates to land astronauts and payloads on the moon as part of the space agency’s Artemis program.
Email Tariq Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Instagram.