Starship SN8’s first steps toward testing began on September 26th when SpaceX loaded the rocket onto a self-propelled mobile transporter (SPMT) and rolled it to the company’s dedicated Boca Chica launch and test facilities. Shortly after arrival, a crane and load spreader was attached to the rocket to lift it onto one of the pad’s test stands (Stand A). That lift never came and the crane eventually detached and retracted, kicking off what would become an unusual four-day delay.
It’s believed that the relatively high winds on the Boca Chica coast were to blame, creating conditions that were too hazardous to risk the precise, hands-on work required to lift and manipulate a ~70 metric ton (~150,000 lb) rocket. While undeniably heavy, an empty Starship’s huge surface area effectively turns it into a giant sail, catching and amplifying wind gusts. Attaching a Starship to a launch mount’s hold-down clamps likely demands millimeter precision, making installation and high winds obviously incompatible (or at least inadvisable).
Finally, around midnight on September 30th, winds died down in Boca Chica and SpaceX fired up a waiting crane and lifted Starship SN8 onto the launch mount. Soon after, technicians began the process of installing the mount’s temporary hydraulic ram – used to mechanically simulate engine thrust – to the rocket’s ‘thrust puck’.
According to Elon Musk, SpaceX will static fire SN8 twice before attempting its 15 km (~50,000 ft) launch debut. More likely than not, SpaceX will attempt a triple-engine static fire with the Starship as-is, install SN8’s nosecone and forward flaps, and attempt a second static fire while only drawing propellant from the rocket’s smaller header tanks (one of which is located in the tip of its nose).