SpaceX plans launch today of Starship rocket designed for long-distance space travel; watch live here

December 8, 2020 • 12:45 pm

I forgot about an email I got earlier from reader Jon about SpaceX’s planned launch today of its “Starship”, the rocket that Elon Musk has planned will take humans to Mars. The launch was scheduled for 10 a.m. Chicago time, and it’s past that, but now I see they company has delayed the launch, as they’re “working through additional test preparations.”

Some explanation from Vox’s “The Verge”:

Sometime today, SpaceX hopes to conduct a pivotal test flight of its next-generation Starship rocket, flying a prototype of the vehicle to its highest altitude yet. The company plans to launch the massive rocket to a height of nearly 8 miles, or 12.5 kilometers, up above SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, before landing the vehicle back down on the ground again.

The test is meant to prove out Starship’s capability of launching and landing upright, something the spacecraft will be expected to do both on Earth and on other worlds. SpaceX aims to use Starship to send cargo and people to deep-space destinations like the Moon and Mars. A test like this will help demonstrate Starship’s ability to perform a controlled flight and see if the rocket’s hardware — particularly the three main Raptor engines — functions as expected.

Launch and landing are just part of today’s test. On its website, SpaceX claims the Starship prototype will actually perform “a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size.” There aren’t many details about the maneuver publicly available, but it’s a risky test that could easily go wrong, with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk only giving the flight a “1/3 chance” of success. SpaceX itself is also deemphasizing the possibility that the test will pull off a perfect launch and landing.

I don’t know if the launch will proceed today, but if it does you can watch it below. I’ll post this again if the launch preparations are resumed tomorrow.

16 thoughts on “SpaceX plans launch today of Starship rocket designed for long-distance space travel; watch live here

  1. I follow this pretty closely and there really isn’t a schedule per se though they need to file with the FAA in order to protect people so that’s an indication. The best guess of the community at the time of this writing is 4 pm Central or about an hour from now. Otherwise they’ll likely try again tomorrow.

    If you want interesting commentary leading up to the launch, I recommend Everyday Astronaut’s stream (

    1. Actually, you may want to watch both streams as the official SpaceX one seems to have a better view and a NASA camera plane is promised. Tim Dodd, the Everyday Spaceman, provides a more entertaining commentary.

      1. He is not bad – he is SpaceX favorite – but if you want more cameras and commentators for the next attempt I recommend NasaSpaceFlight. However, their youtube channels are dynamic, so you have to do a search for it.

        1. I’ve watched them too. There’s also WAI (What About It!) with Felix Schlang (if memory serves). As Tim Dodd suggests, I have several streams open and just flip back and forth. Although this time SpaceX had their own cameras which were closer and probably better quality. There was even a NASA jet at 40,000 feet for the occasion, though I’m not sure if it was going to be involved in the live stream.

  2. I don’t get why you would want to land in the planned way rather than splashing down at sea like NASA rockets did. Seems to me you could save fuel and money – and risk – by towing the rocket back to base from the ocean. Admittedly you would need an awesome parachute to do a whole rocket this way. But high-strength fiber tech has advanced greatly since the 60s, no?

    1. Elon Musk is talking about Starship taking off from an offshore platform and landing right back on the launch pad. He may be pulling our leg on that last part but who knows?

      1. Musk is walking forward and backwards on pad landing.The ultimate target may be to test that since it could remove the need for legs and unnecessary moves.

        The offshore platforms would be for P2P suborbital travel services replacing long distance airplanes. (Which could be a boon, because they also plan to reuse the Mars development Sabatier propellant tank for Earth recycling of the methane from carbon dioxide and water. Apparently a rocket, especially a suborbital, contaminate the stratosphere about as much as today’s intercontinental airplanes, so it could be a net gain for the environment.)

        Aaand with that comment I made an overdraft on my < 10 % allowance. My apologies.

    2. AIUI he’s building with the goal to land and then take off from Mars. So designing for splashdown doesn’t get him towards his goal.

      1. It’s an early prototype, very barebones. They way SpaceX develops is they make testable hardware ASAP and test it, often to failure, while also continuing development the entire time. They are developing the design of the spaceship, the hardware and the manufacturing capability (they plan to make hundreds of vehicles, not just a few) all at the same time.

        SN8, the name of the rocket on the pad right now, stands simply for Serial Number 8. It is the 8th prototype and meanwhile SN9 through at least SN12 are already at various stages of construction ranging from ready to move to the test pad to still being “stacked.” And components for further models are already being made.

        No two are exactly alike. Changes based on data from building and testing previous models are quickly implemented in later models. And they do regularly test to destruction to see when and how something fails. Their method is quite different from what has been the norm in the aerospace industry. Instead spending a very long time on developing a design and then building a single, or small number of, piece of hardware to the design spec they build stuff continuously, on the relative cheap, and regularly test it as part of the design process.

  3. I am hoping to see a campaign in academia for space travel volunteers. Couldn’t we persuade the acolytes of Critical Cultural Theory, Critical Race Theory, Critical Gender Theory, etc. etc., that Mars needs them? Come to think of it, there were sci-fi novels in this very vein.

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