SpaceX Starship prototype ready to blast off: where to watch
SN10 to pave way for 'most powerful space launch vehicle'
On Wednesday, SpaceX engineers prepared to launch a prototype Starship rocket for the first time since a test flight ended in a spectacular explosion last month.
Called SN10, the experimental vehicle will attempt a high-altitude flight test, climbing 10km into the sky before carrying out a controlled landing near the launch pad.
There is a live stream hosted by Nasa Spaceflight.
The Starship project is being followed closely by scientists and enthusiasts, many of whom believe it will one day carry human beings to the Moon and Mars.
The flight at the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas, was delayed after the state was battered by a winter storm that left millions without power and SpaceX relying on back-up solar power during test preparations.
Powered by three of the company’s innovative Raptor engines, the SN10 is helping to pave the way for what SpaceX said will be the most powerful space launch vehicle yet developed.
The final Starship will comprise a super-heavy booster topped with the Starship section itself, standing more than 120 metres tall and capable of lifting more than 100 tonnes of cargo into low Earth orbit.
The vehicle’s unconventional design, which uses stainless steel instead of the expensive titanium alloys and advanced composite materials more commonly associated with space flight, is intended to make the vehicle much more affordable and further reduce the cost of transporting objects and people into space.
The controlled descent during the test on Wednesday, using the Starship’s large fins for stability, will help engineers make the final spacecraft fully reusable.
The vehicle’s shape, in particular its large surface area, is intended to prepare it for touching down on the Martian surface with a human crew.
The spacecraft is expected to carry the first civilian passengers on a lunar mission in 2023.
The dearMoon mission seeks eight civilians to join Japanese entrepreneur Yusaku Maezawa for a week-long space adventure, including a fly-by of the Moon.
Engineers are already working on the next Starship prototypes, and keen-eyed SpaceX watchers have spotted SN11 and SN15 in a nearby facility.
The first prototypes of the Starship’s booster stage are also reported to be taking shape.
Updated: March 3, 2021 08:14 PM