SpaceX aims to launch an epic test flight of its latest Starship prototype on Tuesday (Dec. 8), and you can watch the action live.
SpaceX has a webcast scheduled to go live at 7 a.m. EST (1200 GMT) on Tuesday for a “high-altitude flight test” of its Starship SN8 vehicle. You can watch it here at Space.com, courtesy of SpaceX, or directly via the company.
Starship is the transportation system that SpaceX is developing to get people to distant destinations such as the moon and Mars. The architecture consists of a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) spaceship called Starship and a giant rocket known as Super Heavy. Both of these elements will be fully and rapidly reusable, company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.
Starship and Super Heavy will both be powered by SpaceX’s next-generation Raptor engine. Starship will sport six Raptors and Super Heavy about 30 of them.
SpaceX has been iterating toward the final Starship design via a series of prototypes, three of which have taken flight to date — Starhopper, SN5 and SN6. All three were single-engine vehicles that reached a maximum altitude of about 500 feet (150 meters) during their hops, which took place in the summer of 2019 and this past August and September, respectively.
SN8 is far more complex, with three Raptors, a nose cone and stabilizing body flaps. It will fly far higher than any of its predecessors, if all goes according to plan; SpaceX is targeting an altitude of about 8 miles (12.5 kilometers).
“This suborbital flight is designed to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform and the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle, including its body flaps, to how the vehicle manages propellant transition,” SpaceX wrote in its webcast description. “SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size.”
Keep your viewing schedule flexible, however; there’s no guarantee that SN8 will actually lift off on Tuesday.
“The schedule is dynamic and likely to change, as is the case with all development testing,” SpaceX representatives wrote in the webcast description.
And it won’t be a disaster if SN8 doesn’t ace its dramatic debut, they added: “With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn as a whole, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.”
Mike Wall is the author of “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.