SpaceX is nearly done with short-hop Starship test flights. Elon Musk has
(via TechCrunch) that the company’s SN8 Starship prototype should be finished in “about a week,” and will conduct Starship’s first high-altitude flight. After static fire tests and checkouts, SpaceX will attempt a 60,000-foot return trip with the rocket.
SN8 Starship with flaps & nosecone should be done in about a week. Then static fire, checkouts, static fire, fly to 60,000 ft & back.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2020
The machine will also have flaps and a nosecone, Musk said. Recent “tin can” prototypes like SN5 and SN6 have had a simulated weight on top instead of a real nosecone, and haven’t had flaps to steer flight.
It’s not certain just when SN8 will make its first flight. That could take a while depending on the success of ground tests. SpaceX first asked for permission to conduct a high-altitude flight in early February.
Whenever the flight happens, it will represent an important milestone for SpaceX. Starship is the key to the company’s future now that Crew Dragon appears to be a success. While 60,000ft is far from space (that starts at roughly 62 miles), reaching such altitude would show that Starship is viable for more than brief jumps. It would also represent one of the last major steps before Starship reaches orbit and, eventually, fulfils SpaceX’s dreams of space tourism and interplanetary journeys.
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