SpaceX Starship launch: Will Starship SN11 launch this week? Flight restrictions issued

SpaceX: Starship SN10 successfully lands in Texas

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SpaceX rolled out the Starship prototype onto the launch pad at Boca Chica, South Texas, last week and the rocket is being put through the wringer. SpaceX has so far completed an ambient vent test and cryogenic proof, pumping the rocket full of liquid nitrogen to test its integrity. But there is one hurdle left to clear before the rocket is cleared for flight: a static fire test.

During the static fire test, the rocket that could one day fly humans to Mars will fire its three Raptor engines at full throttle but remain firmly tethered to the ground.

The tests have proven something of an issue with the last two Starship iterations, grounding the SN9 and SN10 before their first flights.

SN9 was left in need of an engine replacement after pulling off three static fire tests in a single day.

The SN10 was hit with a similar problem a month later when SpaceX boss Elon Musk confirmed on Twitter: “One of the engines is suspect, so we’re swapping it out.”

Will Starship SN11 launch this week?

If SpaceX completes the static fire test on Monday, there is a good chance SN11 will be prepped and ready to fly before the week is over.

County Cameron Judge Eddie Trevino Jr has ordered temporary road closures around Boca Chica in anticipation of “non-flight activities” this week.

The closures are in effect between 11am and 5pm GMT (6am and 12pm CST).

A statement reads: “SpaceX and law enforcement authorities will be coordinating to ensure that no individuals or vehicles are allowed access to these areas during these times of the day.”

The residents of Boca Chica Village have also been informed of planned testing activities.

Mary, a NASASpaceFlight videographer and Boca Chica resident, tweeted: “I have received an ‘Alert’ notice and a road/beach closure has been scheduled for tomorrow March 15 from 6am to noon.

“Possible static fire attempt of Starship SN11’s three Raptor engines tomorrow. @NASASpaceflight”

Because there is a small chance of something going wrong on the launch pad, the alerts are issued to minimise the risk to life.

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The warning states: “There is a risk that a malfunction of the SpaceX vehicle during these activities will create an overpressure event that can break windows.”

Another big clue about SN11 launching this week comes in the form of flight restrictions issued by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The restrictions cite “space operations” and are in effect from 11am to 12.30am GMT (6am to 7.30pm CDT) on Tuesday, March 16.

SN11’s test flight will see the rocket launch to an altitude of 6.2 miles (10km), powered by its Raptor engines.

SN11 will then dive towards the ground belly-side down, guided in freefall by four fins mounted on its sides.

Before the spacecraft hit the ground, SN11 will flip upright again and fire its engines for a soft landing attempt.

SN10 was the first prototype to touch down in one piece but the landing crushed the rocket’s legs and caused an explosive methane leak.

Mr Musk promised last week a number of fixes are in the works and SpaceX fans are desperate to see the rocket launch and land without a hitch.

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