SpaceX plans to launch Starship in first high-altitude test next week

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SpaceX's Starship imploded on Friday during a pressure test.
Image: SpaceX

SpaceX is making waves with its Falcon 9 rocket this year. It has now sent NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on two occasions and continues to launch Starlink satellites at an astonishing rate.

However, SpaceX has bigger plans for the future—literally. The private company is working hard to bring a massive vehicle called Starship to life. After months of small-scale tests, SpaceX is finally ready to see what its next-gen spaceship is made of. The company is reportedly planning to carry out its first high-altitude Starship test sometime next week.

Next Steps

While Starlink is already showing promising signs, SpaceX’s main business is still launching things (and people) for other companies. Its new Starship rocket will help it do so more efficiently while aiming for targets that are further away from Earth.

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News of Starship’s upcoming test flight comes from CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted about the event on Tuesday. He mentioned that the S8 (this is the eighth version of Starship) will be ready for a 50,000-foot flight as soon as next week.

The craft has already performed a successful static fire of its three Raptor engines. According to locals in Boca Chica, Texas, home to Starship’s launch site, November 30 appears to be the target date. Whether or not that is true remains to be seen. It does line up with Musk’s estimates on Twitter and could be made possible by the previous static fire.

It’s worth noting that this flight will be the highest by far for the massive rocket. Previously, Starship jumped to a height of just 500 feet as part of an early test.

Coming in Hot

In true SpaceX fashion, the upcoming Starship launch won’t be simple. Aside from targeting a new max height, the company wants to test a variety of other maneuvers. Musk mentioned in his tweet, “3 engine ascent, body flaps, transition from main to header tanks & landing flip.”

The last bit has gained traction among space enthusiasts in recent weeks. Many wondered what the billionaire tech CEO meant and whether he believed that something could go wrong.

In response, he said there is a “one in three chance” of the craft making a successful landing. Given the sheer size of Starship, a safe landing is a lot to ask. That’s why the vehicle isn’t carrying humans just yet.

In the meantime, Musk seems to be okay with the fact that his company’s S8 ship could meet its demise next week. He tweeted that SpaceX has S9 and S10 standing by should something go wrong. It has become common practice for the firm to have a second version of its rockets waiting in case a launch doesn’t go as planned.

Regardless of what happens next week, SpaceX will use the data it gathers to help make the next versions of Starship more reliable. That is big news for anyone that hopes to travel to Mars one day or (more realistically) is a fan of cheap space travel.

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