SpaceX Starship launch: Test dates set for SN15 as rocket gears up for first major flight

SpaceX: Camera feed freezes upon Starship SN11 landing

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Starship SN15 is the next prototype spacecraft to launch from the company’s Boca Chica facility in South Texas after the failures of its predecessors. To date, SpaceX has launched four Starship prototypes, none of which have survived their test flights. The Starship SN10 came closest to succeeding on March 3 this year when it appeared to have landed in one piece – only to blow up eight minutes after touchdown.

SpaceX rolled out the SN15 onto the launch pad on Friday and will soon put the rocket through the wringer.

Before the rocket is cleared for flight, SpaceX will need to tick off a list of pre-flight tests.

These include a pressurised cryo test and a wet rehearsal of the rocket’s three Raptor engines.

During the latter, SpaceX performs a so-called static fire test and briefly fires the Raptors at full throttle but keeps the rocket firmly tethered to the ground.

SpaceX is expected to perform these tests at the start of the week, with road closures around Boca Chica scheduled to protect public health and safety.

Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr has authorised closures on Monday and Tuesday lasting eight hours each.

The closures will be in effect between 6pm and 2am BST (12pm and 8pm CDT).

SpaceX fans are hoping to see the Starship perform during one of these windows, possibly paving the road for a full-blown launch and landing attempt before the week wraps up.

Elon Musk discusses future of SpaceX's Starship system

One SpaceX fan tweeted: “So impressive was the launch of Falcon9 satellites few days ago… I’m looking forward for the SN15.”

Another person said: “I have this horrible gut feeling that something is gonna go wrong and SN15 won’t land.

“I had the same feeling with SN11 and I was right so that makes things worse.”

And a third person said: “Any guesses on when SN15 may fly? Is this week a possibility or most likely next?”

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Will the Starship SN15 launch next week?

According to SpaceX documents filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), SpaceX may be looking to fly the SN15 on April 20.

Documents reveal SpaceX is looking to test a Starlink terminal onboard the spacecraft.

Starlink, of course, is the company’s space-based broadband that is beamed to Earth by a growing constellation of satellites in low-Earth orbit (LEO).

SpaceX has requested permission to operate a single terminal within 5km of Boca Chica “on an experimental basis at altitudes not to exceed 12.5km”.

Starship’s test flights have so far been up to altitudes of 12.5 and 10km.

The request reads: “The authority requested herein will be sharply limited in duration: SpaceX requests to operate under this STA for a period of only 60 days, beginning on April 20, 2020, or the date on which the STA requested herein is granted, whichever is later.

“These operations will only occur on the ground or during test flights of durations not to exceed eight minutes.

“This user terminal will be electrically identical to Earth stations already authorised under SpaceX’s blanket Earth station authorizations as well as its pending application for experimental authorization to operate a limited number of user terminals aboard aircraft.”

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