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.