SpaceX: Incredible simulation shows the Starship SN8 in flight
The most ambitious test yet for SpaceX’s Starship design, Prototype SN8, has almost arrived. The test will involve attempting to fly the next-generation SpaceX rocket nine miles (15km) up. If all goes to plan, the rocket will conduct an aerial flip manoeuvre to configure for landing and a thrust-vectored landing attempt.
Monday, December 7 also marks the first test to employ three Raptor engines, a nose cone on the rocket, and large manoeuvring control surfaces, known as “flaps”.
[A] lot can go wrong, but we’ll provide video, warts and all
The Elon Musk-owned SpaceX was initially given a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) this week in the area surrounding the company’s Boca Chica base, indicating the launch of the Starship SN8 was imminent.
SpaceX, as ever, refused to confirm any specific date it had in mind for the launch.
However, Mr Musk teased the Starship launch would happen “real soon” in a cryptic tweet.
The TFR covered a nine-hour window over this weekend, providing SpaceX with a sufficient window to perform its most audacious Starship test flight yet – a nine-mile (15km) flight and landing.
However, the TFR was retracted on December 3 and the historic Starship rocket test is now anticipated to launch on Monday, December 7.
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How to watch the Starship launch live stream:
Despite the inherent high-risk nature of the latest SpaceX test, Elon Musk has vowed to broadcast the event, even if it results in disaster.
Mr Musk tweeted last week: “Sure, although it might be quite a short livestream!
“[A] lot can go wrong, but we’ll provide video, warts and all. You will see every frame that we do.”
SpaceX enthusiasts can therefore expect to watch a free stream on its YouTube channel and website in the hours leading up to Monday’s event.
SpaceX head Musk has long promised to deliver a Mars colony along a highly-ambitious timeline.
Now, with his Starship project, the controversial South African billionaire is perceived to have doubled-down with his claim SpaceX will take the first humans on Mars in as little as four years.
SpaceX has been working on the Starship (previously known as the Big Falcon Rocket) for several years as the eventual replacement for the Falcon 9.
Even if Monday’s test is a resounding success, SpaceX remains a long way off from producing anything approaching a final version of this deep-space rocket.
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However, SpaceX has already succeeded in producing multiple prototypes to put various parts of the design to the test.
Some have exploded both deliberately and accidentally, but the current SN8 prototype really is starting to resemble a real rocket.
The next step in the long process is Monday’s critical high-altitude test with three Raptor engines and body flaps.
While SpaceX has yet to put a Starship into orbit, Musk recently announced his company’s intention to use the vehicle to send humans to Mars.
Musk said he was “highly confident” SpaceX could launch a crewed mission in six years during an award show webcast.
He added: “If we get lucky, maybe four years.” Musk has also pledged to send a Japanese billionaire on a journey around the Moon, potentially as early as 2023.
The current SpaceX timeline calls for the latest SN8 prototype to fly its high-altitude test in the coming days.
This will mark both the first time the rocket has travelled more than a few hundred metres from the ground and the first time it has used more than one Raptor engine.
Should everything work perfectly, it is possible SpaceX could be testing near-final versions of the Starship in just one or two years.
However, to reach distant locations such as Mars, the Starship also requires the Super Heavy module, which lifts it out of Earth’s gravity well.
And SpaceX has not even started constructing this component and there are no clear indications when this will even begin.
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