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Hoping the third time’s the charm, a SpaceX Starship may blast off as early as Wednesday in hopes of being the first prototype to stick a landing after two previous tests ended in fiery explosions.
“The SpaceX team will attempt a high-altitude flight test of Starship serial number 10 (SN10) — our third high-altitude suborbital flight test of a Starship prototype from SpaceX’s site in Cameron County, Texas,” the company said.
As with Starships SN8 and SN9, SN10 will be powered during the ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence before the vehicle reaches apogee — at an altitude of about 6 miles.
“SN10 will perform a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent,” SpaceX said.
“The Starship prototype will descend under active aerodynamic control, accomplished by independent movement of two forward and two aft flaps on the vehicle,” it explained.
“SN10’s Raptor engines will then reignite as the vehicle attempts a landing flip maneuver immediately before touching down on the landing pad adjacent to the launch mount,” according to the company.
On Feb. 2, SN9 went up in flames at the end of an otherwise successful high-altitude test from Boca Chica, Texas, reaching about 32,800 feet before turning to a horizontal “belly flop” position and performing a series of maneuvers.
It then attempted to land upright, but appeared to come in too fast and at a bad angle, ending in an explosion similar to one in December, when the company’s SN8 rocket was destroyed.
The prototypes were developed by CEO Elon Musk’s space company in the hopes they’ll one day carry humans on missions to the moon and Mars.
Musk said he was “highly confident” the spacecraft will reach orbit “many times” and be safe for human transport by 2023.
On Tuesday, Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa put out an open call for members of the public interested in boarding the SpaceX rocket that will loop around the moon that year.
On Feb. 19, an FAA spokesperson said the agency had closed the investigation into the landing mishaps, “clearing the way for the SN10 test flight pending FAA approval of license updates,” according to CNET.
“The SN9 vehicle failed within the bounds of the FAA safety analysis. Its unsuccessful landing and explosion did not endanger the public or property. All debris was contained within the designated hazard area. The FAA approved the final mishap report, including the probable causes and corrective actions,” the rep said.
Starship SN10 has a launch window that began at 10 a.m. EST and ends at 7 p.m.
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