SpaceX conduct static fire engine test on Starship SN9

SpaceX is due to launch and land Starship SN9 on its first suborbital flight after a month of delays, launch reviews and engine swaps. Elon Musk’s company aimed to launch the SN9 earlier this week but the plans were scuppered by strong winds in the launch area of Boca Chica, South Texas. Subsequent attempts to fly the 160ft (50m) rocket were delayed pending a launch review US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

SpaceX fans will be glad to know, however, the launch might finally go ahead today (January 28).

Cameron County Judge Eddie Travino Jr has issued road closure notices for Boca Chica – a good sign a rocket launch is imminent.

The road closures are in effect between 3pm and midnight GMT (9am and 6pm CST).

Judge Travino said: “Should SpaceX not complete its test launch activities on January 29, 2021, then SpaceX may use an alternative date to complete its test launch activities.”

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The FAA has also issued flight restrictions over SpaceX’s South Texas facility, citing “space operations” in the area.

The temporary flight restrictions are in effect between 2pm and 11.59pm GMT (8am and 5.59pm CST) on Thursday and Friday.

The residents of Boca Chica Village have also been instructed to evacuate today, according to Mary, a NASASpaceFlight videographer and local resident.

She tweeted early on Thursday (UK time): “Boca Chica Village residents have been asked to evacuate by 8am tomorrow.

“I can hardly wait to leave and watch Starship SN9 fly. @NASASpaceflight”

SpaceX perform 150m hop with Starship SN5

SpaceX also confirmed on its website it is aiming to launch SN9 on a high-altitude test flight “as early as Thursday”.

The launch will mark the second high-altitude suborbital after the explosive conclusion to SN8’s launch last month.

The company said: “Given the dynamic schedule of development testing, stay tuned to our social media channels for updates as we move toward SpaceX’s second high-altitude flight test of Starship!”

SN9 is due to launch on a 6.2 to 7.8 mile (10 to 12.5km) test flight, powered by its three Raptor engines.

However, as with past launch attempts, poor weather could still get in the way of SpaceX’s plans.

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The FAA might also not clear the Starship in time for a Thursday launch, even though flight restrictions have been issued.

Michael Baylor of NASASpaceFlight tweeted: “It will likely come down to the FAA and the weather for a possible Starship SN9 test flight tomorrow.

“No confirmation on the status of the FAA launch license yet from Elon.

“Wind and cloud cover are probably the biggest weather risks.”

SpaceX fans have been kept in the dark about the launch all month and have been venting their frustrations and excitement on social media.

Unlike the commercial launches of SpaceX’s Falcon 9, news of Starship’s launch schedule has been scant.

One SpaceX fan tweeted: “I’m so excited! Good luck. Hope Starship SN9 will land successfully. I will cry.”

Another fan said: “Looks like Starship SN9 will launch later today! Looking forward to the new mission.”

And a third person said: “I keep my fingers crossed for a successful #Starship 10km hop. Take-off belly flop manoeuvre and a safe landing.”

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