SpaceX to try again with the Starship rocket at 5:30 Eastern time today

December 9, 2020 • 2:30 pm

Yesterday, as I noted in a post, SpaceX had scheduled a trial launch of its Starship rocket, designed to host long-distance space travel to the Moon, or to Mars. Unfortunately, the liftoff, originally scheduled for yesterday morning, was aborted at the last second.

Update December 8th, 5:45PM ET: SpaceX counted all the way down to launch on Tuesday afternoon, but at 1.3 seconds to liftoff, the Raptor engines initiated an abort and the Starship prototype didn’t take flight. The company will provide updates about its next launch opportunity on its Twitter account.

There’s no update on the Twitter account, but the first video below now says the liftoff is scheduled for 4:30 CST, which is 5:30 Eastern time. The launching pad is in south Texas, so 4:30 pm is local time. They don’t have much of a window:

If this issue can be diagnosed and addressed, SpaceX has a back-up opportunity on Wednesday, during the daylight hours in Texas, to try again. The window runs from 8am CT (14:00 UTC) to 5pm (23:00 UTC). Fortunately, weather appears to be exceptional on Wednesday.

I’ll post this note if the launch is rescheduled. If so, you can watch it at two places:

SpaceX site:

Or this site, which has commentary (it may move later):

31 thoughts on “SpaceX to try again with the Starship rocket at 5:30 Eastern time today

  1. As of the moment the SpaceX youtube feed will be going active in just about 15 minutes. And currently the Raptor engines on SN8 are being chilled, one of the last steps before launch.

    Based on this, launch is looking to be somewhere between 15 to 30 minutes from now, or between 4:00 – 4:30 PM Eastern time.

    1. Another thing he does is check that the “pointey end is up and the flamey end is down.” A little silly but his heart is in the right place and he does know his rockets.

          1. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 booster, their current workhorse that launches a couple of times a month, does often land on a barge at sea, but when possible returns to the launch site and lands there. It depends on fuel constraints.

            This new Starship spaceship, of which SN8 was a prototype, is currently intended to launch and land from a floating platform at sea once in normal operation, but these prototype test flights have never been intended to land at sea.

      1. Two engines restarted for landing but then one failed just before touchdown. That has to be considered a fairly successful first launch. A lot of things worked. The SpaceX video ended by reminding everyone that the next one is ready to go. This thing is so large that it all seemed to be in slow motion. I’m looking forward to the next try.

          1. It made it all the way back to the pad on which it was supposed to land so a lot worked. Didn’t stick the landing though. Someone tweeted that one of the engines was showing “engine-rich combustion”, meaning it was dissolving in its own blaze of glory.

            1. The green was burning oxygen rich (see my comment below for the SpaceX stated reason) propellant so most likely showed released copper from the engine alloys. Slow motion images showed that in at least two of the engines at the very end.

              1. Yep, pretty much anything will burn in the presence of lots of oxygen at those kinds of temperatures.

                Copper in the engine components seems likely.

        1. Awesome, and ending with bullseye kaboom! “It will buff right out.”

          Musk’s tweets tell the story. The ascent was staged, so all engines worked perfectly until the very end when the methane header tank flow was sloshing (most likely). They did good on everything they were anxious about. “Mars, here we come!”

          [That said, the heat protection tiles have been dropping off. And SN8 evidently had engines staged so it didn’t go supersonic – they need to work on structural integrity. And flame proof insulation in the engine compartment. For starters.]

  2. Just watched the replay -Thriller! Noticed the red vs. blue colored exhausts and what looked like a single exhaust port breaking into what looked like 3, each dying one after another. Then separate, off camera white exhausts (maneuvering jets?) moving rocket to horizontal; then gliding; then burst back to vertical and on-camera exhausts coming back on. Maybe came on too late and landing too fast led to explosion? (Sorry, I’m no rocket scientists, just read a lot of SciFi.) Thanks for the link, Professor – really took my mind off rest of the current situation.

    1. This prototype, SN8, had 3 engines all capable of gimballing. During the ascent they were shut down in stages, intentionally. Each time there was a shut down the engines gimballed to a new vector to keep thrust aligned properly. There was also gimballing for maneuvering.

      On landing the engines apparently weren’t getting enough fuel, as SpaceX said the cause of the RUD was not enough header tank pressure. This is apparently what caused the engine shutdowns on landing and the change in exhaust plume color (not enough methane being delivered to the engines causing oxygen rich conditions).

      1. I’m interested in learning what its flight profile was. How high did it actually get? What was its max speed going up and coming down? I haven’t found a source for even estimates for those things yet.

    1. That would be silly. Elon Musk is no Tony Stark.

      This test was really just a baby step. The rocket was a long way from getting into orbit. It didn’t even go supersonic. As noted above, there were other problems like tiles falling off.

      Oh, and it ended in a fiery mess.

      Considering these things are supposed to be reusable, he sure is having to make a lot of them.

  3. “Considering these things are supposed to be reusable, he sure is having to make a lot of them.”

    This is normal development: Many prototypes. This is early in development, nothing like the commercially-operating Falcon 9.

    They are doing things never done before. It takes testing. This testing is more loaded than in most industries, where test samples are relatively cheap and large sample sizes are used. Each prototype is an important test “vehicle” (NPI) with which to try techniques and gather data to support the design.

    1. Exactly. Other people in the rocket business understand full well how impressive this flight was. The nay-sayers will ignore what the experts say and nay-say anyway.

    2. It’s interesting to contrast SpaceX’s approach to that of Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin. SpaceX develops many prototypes and doesn’t mind testing them in a fairly public way. On the other hand, Blue Origin mostly works in secret and its New Glenn large rocket has been in design for 8 years and has yet to fly. I would bet on SpaceX’s approach to be more successful over the long haul.

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