SpaceX may fly a 16-story Starship prototype hundreds of feet into the air on Tuesday. Here's how to watch live video of the launch attempt from Texas.
SpaceX is developing a fully reusable rocket system called Starship-Super Heavy in Texas. Before the vehicle can fly to orbit, the aerospace company needs to prove the system's core design works. Elon Musk said that the latest Starship prototype, called SN5, could soon perform an experimental "hop" hundreds of feet into the air. After experiencing an engine problem during a launch attempt on Monday, Musk said SpaceX will "figure out why" and try again Tuesday. Several groups should broadcast live video of the next attempt on YouTube.
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If you think grain silos can't fly, you may be in for a surprise on Tuesday. SpaceX, the aerospace company founded by Elon Musk, is fervently working to develop a fully reusable, 39-story rocket system in Boca Chica, a relatively remote region at the southeastern tip of Texas. If the system, called Starship-Super Heavy, works as Musk has promised, it may reduce the cost of launching anything to space by about 1,000-fold, enable missions to the moon and Mars, and even allow for hypersonic travel around Earth. But first, SpaceX has to see if its core designs for Starship work. To that end, the company is moving briskly to build, test, and launch prototypes of the upper-stage spaceship, called Starship. According to a July 30 tweet from Musk, the first such full-scale vehicle will "hop" from a beachside launch site to about 492 feet (150 meters) in the air, hover parallel to the ground, and gently touch down on a concrete pad. To tee up that test flight, SpaceX on July 30 successfully fueled and ignited a Raptor engine on its latest Starship prototype, called SN5 (short for "serial number 5"). Musk confirmed a launch attempt from Boca Chica on Monday evening, but the rocket fizzled when it was supposed to lift off the ground. "Scrubbed for the day. A Raptor turbopump spin start valve didn't open, triggering an automatic abort," Musk tweeted shortly after the attempt. "We'll figure out why & retry tomorrow."
According to an FAA airspace notice posted on Monday morning, SN5 could fly between 9 a.m. ET and 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday. (For safety reasons, SpaceX is required to file such notices before launching rockets.) Several groups with video cameras pointed at SpaceX's launch site streamed live footage of Monday's hop attempt, and they'll likely do so again Tuesday. A YouTube feed by LabPadre shows the closest view of the SN5 prototype, while SPadre's continuous live feed (filmed from a rooftop on South Padre Island about six miles away) shows a very wide view. NASASpaceFlight.com also streams live video and commentary of SpaceX's launch attempts. Their view on YouTube — courtesy of Boca Chica Village resident Mary McConaughey — may offer the best all-around view and source of information. SpaceX had hoped to attempt a flight of SN5 on July 27, but Hurricane Hanna damaged a component that had to be fixed, Musk said. A previous FAA notice suggested the company would try to fly SN5 on Sunday — the same day as its successful attempt to land two NASA astronauts in the Gulf of Mexico — but the launch window came and went. (SpaceX's Demo -2 was an historic test flight of the company's Crew Dragon spaceship, a vehicle developed with about $2.7 billion in NASA funding.) Rapidly prototyping toward Mars
SN5 is the latest of several full-scale Starship prototypes that SpaceX has built in Texas. The previous versions have either crumpled during tests or, as was the case on May 29, catastrophically exploded. Each failure has taught SpaceX valuable lessons to inform design and material changes, tweaks that Musk says are already being worked into the SN6, SN7, and SN8 prototypes, which are in various stages of assembly within the company's expanding and bustling work yards in South Texas. Musk has said SpaceX may need to build as many as 20 different versions before reaching orbit. The steel vehicles don't have wing-like canards or nosecones attached, in case something goes wrong in their earliest phases of testing, so they look more like flying fuel tanks or grain silos than rocket ships.
However, as last year's test launch of an early Starship prototype called Starhopper showed, the flights of even experimental vehicles (shown above) can impress: On August 27, Starhopper soared about 492 feet (150 meters) into the air, translated across a launch site, and landed on a nearby concrete pad. SpaceX obtained a launch license from the FAA to send Starship prototypes on a "suborbital trajectory," meaning the experimental rocket ships could reach dozens of miles above Earth before returning and landing. However, it's uncertain if SpaceX eventually plans to launch SN5 on such an ambitious flight path if it survives the pending "hop." The company couldn't attempt more ambitious flights until late August at the soonest, though.
On July 23, SpaceX asked the FCC for permission to communicate with prototypes flying as high as 12.4 miles (20 kilometers) within the next seven months. The earliest date noted on the request, which is still pending, is August 18. SpaceX is also pursuing a launch license for full-scale, orbital-class Starship-Super Heavy vehicles. Musk hopes Starship will launch a cargo mission to Mars in 2022, send a private crew around the moon in 2023, return NASA astronauts to the lunar surface in 2024, and even begin sending people to Mars the same year. Have a story or inside information to share about the spaceflight industry? Send Dave Mosher an email at email@example.com or a Twitter direct message at @davemosher. More secure communication options are listed here. This story has been updated with new information. It was originally published on July 21, 2020.SEE ALSO: SpaceX must pass a new environmental review before it can launch Starship-Super Heavy rockets from Texas, and it might add years to Elon Musk's Mars timeline DON'T MISS: Rocket Lab's founder and CEO Peter Beck opens up about the company's recent launch failure — and its spacecraft to reach the moon, Venus, or even Mars Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why NASA waited nearly a decade to send astronauts into space from the US
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