SN9: Planets aligning for next SpaceX Starship test flight as soon as today

SpaceX’s Starship SN9 was supposed to be a quick turnaround from SN8 that flew at the beginning of December. Instead the next-gen rocket prototype has seen several setbacks including needing to conduct several static fires to insure the Raptor engines and the vehicle itself are ready. Now Starship SN9’s time has finally come.

Notifications were sent out on Wednesday to Boca Chica residents to evacuate the area by 8 a.m. CST to be out of harm’s way in case SN9 explodes. SpaceX has also received road closures from Cameron County and temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) from the FAA that take effect at 9 a.m. CST and 8 a.m. CST, respectively.

The final two issues are whether or not SpaceX will get approval for the launch from the FAA today. Last we’ve heard from Elon Musk is that they were still waiting on that approval. The next issue is wind speed, something that has been an issue over the last couple of days, and it looks like there’s a chance those will die down enough to make the launch possible.

The launch window for Starship starts at the beginning of road closures at 9 a.m. CST and goes to the end of the TFR which is 5:59 p.m. CST. If today is not the day for the flight, then the next attempt to fly is tomorrow.

For now, we have this message from SpaceX to hype the potential for today being launch day. If Starship SN9 does hop today, the big question is whether or not SpaceX will be able to stick the landing this time.

As early as Thursday, January 28, the SpaceX team will attempt a high-altitude flight test of Starship serial number 9 (SN9) – the second high-altitude suborbital flight test of a Starship prototype from our site in Cameron County, Texas. Similar to the high-altitude flight test of Starship serial number 8 (SN8), SN9 will be powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude. SN9 will perform a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent.

The Starship prototype will descend under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle. All four flaps are actuated by an onboard flight computer to control Starship’s attitude during flight and enable precise landing at the intended location. SN9’s Raptor engines will then reignite as the vehicle attempts a landing flip maneuver immediately before touching down on the landing pad adjacent to the launch mount.

A controlled aerodynamic descent with body flaps and vertical landing capability, combined with in-space refilling, are critical to landing Starship at destinations across the solar system where prepared surfaces or runways do not exist, and returning to Earth. This capability will enable a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry both crew and cargo on long-duration, interplanetary flights and help humanity return to the Moon, and travel to Mars and beyond.

There will be a live feed of the flight test available here that will start a few minutes prior to liftoff. Given the dynamic schedule of development testing, stay tuned to our social media channels for updates as we move toward SpaceX’s second high-altitude flight test of Starship!

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