SpaceX launch: Starship SN9 looks ready to launch as early as Tuesday

SpaceX Starship explodes whilst attempting to land during test

Flight restrictions have been issued around SpaceX’s facilities in South Texas this week, hinting at an imminent launch date for SN9. The latest Starship iteration, dubbed Serial Number 9 (SN9), performed a brief static fire test last Wednesday (January 6). Although the rocket remained tethered to the ground when it fired its three Raptor engines, the test was a critical element of the pre-flight activities that precede a launch.

After the spectacular crash of the SN8 last month, SpaceX fans are hoping SN9 will stick the landing after its 7.8 mile (12.5km) bellyflop.

Just like the SN8 before it, the rocket will fly to a height of more than 40,000ft and then attempt to slow its descent by falling sideways.

The Starship prototype will then flip upright again, just before it reaches the ground, and fire its engines for powered descent.

A completed Starship will perform the exact same manoeuvre when ferrying people to and from Mars – a feat SpaceX chief Elon Musk wants to achieve before the 2030s are out.

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Spaceflight photographer John Kraus tweeted: “SpaceX’s journey to Mars begins in the marshes of South Texas.

“SN9 awaits launch – the second-high altitude flight test of the Starship program.”

Another SpaceX fan said: “SN9 launch getting closer. Maybe we will see a landing this time.”

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued a note to airmen or NOTAM airspace restriction for Tuesday.

The NOTAM cites “space operation” and designates a no-fly zone around Boca Chica beach, just to the east of Brownsville, Texas.

The restrictions are in effect between 2pm and 11.59pm GMT, meaning there is a chance SN9 could launch tomorrow.

The FAA’s reason for the restriction reads: “To provide a safe environment for rocket launch and recovery pursuant to 14 CFR section 91.”

The same restrictions are also in place for Wednesday and Thursday.

However, the FAA has previously issued NOTAMs around Boca Chica for January 8, 9 and 10 but the restrictions were cancelled.

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SpaceX famously keeps its Starship launch schedule under tight wraps, with most information gleamed from Elon Musk’s personal Twitter page.

But the California-based company has been gradually ramping up its work on the Starship, with past iteration only performing low-altitude hops.

The SN8’s launch on December 9 marked the first time a Starship prototype fitted with a nosecone and flaps took to the skies.

And despite the rocket being blown to smithereens when it failed to land, the crash was still considered a resounding success for the company.

SpaceX said in the aftermath: “Low pressure in the fuel header tank during the landing burn led to high touchdown velocity resulting in a hard (and exciting!) landing.”

The goal of the Starship programme is to build an interplanetary launch vehicle capable of moving humans and cargo to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

Starship will launch from Earth atop of the Super Heavy booster rocket.

Together, the rocket will measure more than 390ft (120m) tall and carry about 100 tons of cargo into orbit.

According to SpaceX, Starship will be the “world’s most powerful launch vehicle ever developed”.

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