The vehicle is ready, its documents are in order, and the weather conditions should be relatively good in South Texas on Tuesday. All this points to the attempts of SpaceX to release its latest prototype of Starship ̵
Local officials allowed the road to be closed from noon (17:00 UTC) on Tuesday until 20:00. Local time (01:00 UTC Wednesday). The end of this closing coincides with the sunset at the launch site, which will come shortly after 20:00. In addition, in its daily operational plan, the Federal Aviation Administration confirms that the launch is scheduled for Tuesday.
This is an important mission for SpaceX. Already, as part of this experimental test campaign, SpaceX lost four full-scale prototypes of Starship – SN8, SN9, SN10 and SN11 – in flights since December. Only one of these four vehicles made a soft landing, the SN10 in early March, but due to a fuel line problem, it exploded about 10 minutes after touching.
However, engineers have learned from each of these mistakes. And SpaceX has made “hundreds” of improvements to the current Starship prototype on the launch pad, according to company founder Elon Musk. These include improvements in the design of the vehicle’s construction, on-board flight computers and flight software.
The goal of the SN15, as with its predecessors, is to demonstrate the ability to fly up to about 10 km and land successfully. If this attempt fails, the company has already arranged the SN16 in a building with a high bay a few kilometers from the launch site and the prototype is almost ready to become a pad.
After demonstrating the ability to land Starship after a flight at high altitude, the next main goal will be to launch the vehicle into orbit. Accordingly, Musk said the next major upgrade to Starship will come with the SN20, which will have a separation system and a heat shield designed to withstand heating from Earth orbit.
Although the tent factory in South Texas is releasing prototypes of Starship, SpaceX engineers are working in parallel to assemble a prototype of a super heavy booster to test its launch capabilities. This rocket will be needed to launch Starship into orbit.
SpaceX is scheduled to provide a webcast at launch later this afternoon; we will embed it below when it launches a few minutes before takeoff. Meanwhile, NASASpaceflight and LabPadre have ongoing streams to track progress toward launch launches today.