SpaceX fans are desperate to know when the Mars-bound Starship SN9 prototype will take to the skies for the very first time. After the spectacular crash landing of the SN8 model last month, hopes are Serial Number 9 (SN9) will stick the landing this week. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued flight restrictions around the company’s Boca Chica facilities in South Texas, suggesting a launch could be imminent.
The latest FAA restrictions cite space operations and are in effect on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, suggesting the SN9 will launch next week.
Before the SN9 launch, SpaceX performed one last dress rehearsal – a static fire test of the spacecraft’s three Raptor engines.
One such test was completed on January 6, and three more were completed on Wednesday.
SpaceX chief Elon Musk confirmed the tests on Twitter, saying: “Today at SpaceX is about practising Starship engine starts. Ship is held down by massive pins while engines are fired. Two starts completed, about to try a third.”
He then added in another tweet: “All three static fires completed and no RUDs!”
The engine test was initially expected to take place on Tuesday but was scrubbed, likely due to intense winds.
One SpaceX fan tweeted: “Second static fire test has not happened, it must first before launch.
“First SN9 test was cut short for unknown reasons. We can only speculate as to why the second test has not taken place.
“Don’t forget this rocket fell over in its bay. Did it suffer damage?”
Another person said: “They are still on track for an SN9 launch at the end of this week.
“SN10 still needs it’s aft flaps but focus will solely be on getting SN9 off the ground and hopefully back on the ground with no fiery bits.”
With the test now out of the way, SpaceX will conduct a Launch Readiness Review (LRR).
How to watch the SpaceX Starship launch online:
Although SpaceX has not confirmed a launch date for SN9, you can track all launchpad activities in the embedded video player above.
Courtesy of LabPadre on YouTube, the Boca Chica launchpad is being streamed live online around the clock.
The launchpad is being filmed from nearly six miles away at the Sapphire Condominiums, South Padre Island, but features a clear view of the SN9 prototype.
Unlike SpaceX’s regular Falcon 9 launches, the company has not been live streaming its Boca Chica test flights.
Will the Starship SN9 launch today?
After Wednesday’s triple static fire test, space flight restrictions over Boca Chica suggest the SN9 will launch next week.
Before SN9 is cleared for flight, SpaceX needs to complete a Launch Readiness Review or LRR.
However, SpaceX fans will still be watching the Boca Chica live feeds today in hopes of a surprise launch.
Three new NOTAMs have been issued for January 18, January 19 and January 20.
The NOTAMs designate a no flight zone around Brownsville, Texas, and include Boca Chica beach.
The NOTAMs cite “space operations” and are in effect between 2pm and 11.59pm GMT (8am and 5.59pm CST).
Once SN9 launches, it will reach a height of about 7.8 miles (12.5km) after which it will plummet back to the ground.
The spacecraft will perform a bellyflop manoeuvre, meaning it will flip to its side and fall to the ground only guided by four flaps on its sides.
Then, before it reaches the ground, the rocket will flip upright again and fire its engines for a soft landing.