SpaceX is working hard to get Starship SN9 ready to fly the next 12.5 km flight early this month, but there are still a few tests that need to be done prior to the next milestone.

Production at SpaceX’s Starship facility in Boca Chica, Texas, has increased with SN10 receiving its nose cone and SN11 having all of its fuel tanks stacked. Alongside the progressing next vehicles to fly are scattered ring sections ready to be assembled into SN12 and beyond. SpaceX seems to have no shortage of Starships to continue testing after SN9’s flight — even if it doesn’t survive the landing again.

Down the road from the manufacturing facility, SN9 stands on launch mount B while getting the VIP treatment to prepare for a flight within the next few weeks. On December 30, we saw it go through a cryo test tanking where SpaceX loaded the tanks with super cold nitrogen to make sure the wields will hold. Also during that test, teams conducted tests on the vehicle’s reaction control system, test-firing SN9’s cold gas thrusters.

The sign we are looking for is a temporary flight restriction (TFR) filed with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with an unlimited altitude restriction. This will mean a possible date for the flight testing. Currently, there is a TFR until February 28th up to 18,000 feet MSL. MSL stands for Mean Sea Level which is the average sea level for the Earth; sometimes you might see AGL used for altitude which stands for Above Ground Level and is based on local ground elevation.

We are still expecting to see SN9 perform a static fire with the three new Raptor engines it has attached under it. This can be done under the current TFR, but will require notices to Boca Chica Village residents and a Cameron County road closure for beach goers. Currently, SpaceX has filed closures for January 4 through January 6. No notice has gone out as of writing, however, so the soonest the static fire can be done is the likely Wednesday if notices are sent out on Tuesday.

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