Elon Musk says first high-altitude test of SpaceX's Starship rocket could ...

SpaceX giant 400ft Starship rocket will fly 47,000 feet into the air later this week according to Elon Musk, but there is a one in three chance it will land with a crash.

The massive two-stage-to-orbit heavy lift vehicle has been in development since 2012 and could bring the average cost of launch from $51 million to just $2 million. 

In what is the latest, and most ambitious test of the rocket to date, it will fly up to nine miles in the air - higher than the cruising height of most planes - then come back down to land safely at the SpaceX Boca Chica development facility in Texas. 

However, Elon Musk tweeted that a 'lot of things need to go right' for it to land back on solid ground giving the landing a one in three chance of happening as planned.

SpaceX hopes to use Starship to take passengers to the Moon and Mars - with Musk suggesting the first un-crewed flight to Mars could be in just two years time. 

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No specific date or time has been set for the test flight, which follows a series of 'static fire tests', but it is expected to be before the end of this week.

Musk says the first 'high-altitude test' of the rocket will see it fly nine miles up above the Boca Chica facility in Texas and then come straight back down for a landing

Musk says the first 'high-altitude test' of the rocket will see it fly nine miles up above the Boca Chica facility in Texas and then come straight back down for a landing

The massive Starship two-stage-to-orbit heavy lift vehicle has been in development since 2012 and is designed to bring the cost of launch down by being reusable (artist's impression)

The massive Starship two-stage-to-orbit heavy lift vehicle has been in development since 2012 and is designed to bring the cost of launch down by being reusable (artist's impression)

SpaceX is one step closer to launching its Starship SN8 prototype nine miles up after a series of successful static fire tests at its Texas facility

SpaceX is one step closer to launching its Starship SN8 prototype nine miles up after a series of successful static fire tests at its Texas facility

To develop a spaceship that can potentially reach the Moon or Mars straight from Earth requires extensive testing including landing back on Earth from a height.

If this latest flight test - that will see the triple Raptor engine fire and lift the 400ft spaceship into the air - is successful, then further, higher tests will likely follow. 

In an interview with German publishing house Axel Springer on Tuesday, the SpaceX founder and CEO said he had an ambitious timeline for future missions. 

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Musk said he hoped to have Starship land on the Red Planet within the next two years and have the first humans step foot on Mars after a trip on board Starship by 2026 - a slight slip from his original goal of 2024.

The latest high-altitude test is penciled in for some point between Wednesday and the end of the week, but test times and dates can change at short notice.  

Nine miles up isn't enough to take it into space - but as all previous 'hops' have been measured in feet rather than miles - it is a significant step forward.

The edge of space is agreed by NASA and others to be 50 miles above sea level but to go into orbit you need to get to at least 100 miles above sea level.

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