The next big step for Elon Musk’s mission to colonize Mars is happening today with the first high-altitude test for SpaceX Starship SN8. What can you expect to see? Possibly, we’ll watch a rocket ship that looks like a giant grain silo shoot 12.5 kilometers (about 8 miles) into the sky, do a landing flip maneuver (never before done with a rocket of this size), and then safely land vertically on the ground. Or, we’ll see some things blow up.
You can watch all the action, live, below…
SpaceX is good with this either way. “Failure” isn’t seen as the SpaceX Starship SN8 exploding. Failure would mean a lack of data collection. While it would be great to see the mission completed as they expect it to happen, anything that happens today is a learning opportunity as they move forward building the next Starship model. As SpaceX puts it, “Success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.”
Are you ready to watch this happen? As is common for the Boca Chica test site facility, we don’t know exactly what time liftoff will happen. The official SpaceX livestream went live at 11:00 a.m. ET. Followers of SpaceX and their Starship advancements are particularly enthusiastic about today, particularly for what is being called the “belly flop maneuver”, and every YouTube channel livestreaming from Boca Chica, Texas has been watching the site carefully.
Everyday Astronaut, the YouTube channel run by Tim Dodd, went live at 12:30 p.m. ET, ahead of his scheduled time due to demand by fans. About the early livestream, he said, “You guys were adamant about me streaming nothing.” He’s answering questions about how the SpaceX Starship works, watching the test site, giving an updated timeline based on news as it releases, and will be ready to livestream the actual test flight when it happens. Watch the livestream here:
The livestream comes with the warning, “Remember: This is a prototype test flight and it’s VERY subject to change.” If you would like to be notified about rocket launches from SpaceX or other companies, you may wish to download the free Next Spaceflight app, which sends alerts when any rocket launches are happening.
One of the things that makes today’s launch special is going suborbital, but there is more than that. Previously, SpaceX Starship prototypes have done engine tests that have included explosions. More recently, we’ve seen many engine tests and a few hops reaching heights of 150 meters. Those hops went up, and then straight back down, without the rocket turning. Today, we’re (hopefully) going to see the first flight of SN8, the first model to include a nose cone and other aerodynamic surfaces for control capable of doing a test this high and turning. It will also be the first SpaceX Starship flight with three engines. With the power of the engines and body flaps, the prototype will perform a flip maneuver and a soft propulsive landing. Or maybe explode.
Whatever happens, lifting this far off the ground is the next phase for the SpaceX Starship prototypes and one step closer to Elon Musk’s dream of colonizing Mars in the next decade.