SpaceX To (Maybe) Send Starship To 50,000 Feet


SpaceX plans to launch the eighth version of its Starship interplanetary rocket SN8 to about 50,000 feet with an ambitious test schedule that CEO Elon Musk wouldn’t take odds on its success. The silo-like stainless steel cylinder, which looks a little more spaceship-like with its nose cone attached for the first time, is hoped to blast off the pad at Boca Chica, Texas, test a bunch of onboard systems and then flip over for a belly-first descent. It will then fire its engines for a vertical landing on the pad. Maybe.

“Lot of things need to go right, so maybe 1/3 chance,” Musk said in a tweet. “But that’s why we have SN9 and SN10.” Those are the next prototype spacecraft, waiting in line in the production facility so that testing can continue even if the current vehicle is lost. Several of the earlier prototypes have gone out in a blaze of glory in spectacular and destructive fireballs. Each prototype is more complex than the next and SpaceX is gambling that disposable prototypes will be ultimately cheaper than achieving untested perfection on the first try. While the Starship’s top tier mission is to take humans to Mars, the vehicles sophisticated enough for orbital flight will be used as a more efficient way to launch low earth orbit satellites for Musk’s Starlink internet service.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. I can hardly wait to see that one. After the kind of success Musk has had it’s got to be easy for him to disclaim 2 out of 3 chances for success and just stick with 1 out of 3. Not many CEOs do that. (Just thought I’d say so before all the Tesla/Elon haters weigh in 🙂

  2. Love him or hate him, Musk has revolutionized the space launch industry. And, he has done it in full view of the general public, failures and all. Things are about to get even more interesting. A new launch complex is under construction at the Kennedy Space Center to accommodate Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket, which claims to be larger than Musk’s Falcon Heavy vehicle. We have a new space race, but this time between competing private companies, not governments. Should be fun to watch.

  3. I have a deep dark hate for the Muskrat and Tesla and pretty much everything they stand for.

    With that said Space X is a different company with qualified engineers and seems to produce an acceptable product. My feelings on Space X are more neutral, although I’m sure they would be better off without Musk.

  4. If not them then someone else would have filled the need. Space X/Muskrat have no magical powers. That’s the beauty of the (semi) free market. Again take my hate in context. I have nothing against Space X per se, just the egotistical snarky megalomaniacal dope smoking ‘leader’ that is the Muskrat and his firstborn, Tesla.