Monday, December 7, 2020

For Those Attempting to Watch The Starship Test Flight Tuesday 12/8

While we don't have a released time for the launch, the road closure and Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) run from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM CST and SpaceX has announced they'll be starting a webcast or stream video "a few minutes before the test."  You can watch on YouTube or on the SpaceX Starship site and get more details about the mission and their coverage.  If they don't make it tomorrow, there are backup opportunities the next two days.

Earlier today, they ran a wet dress rehearsal, similar to what they do on a Falcon 9 a day or two before lift off. Tanks are filled with liquid methane and oxygen, pumps turned on, engines pre-chilled, pre-burners tested; in other words, everything short of firing the engines.  Then the vehicle was de-tanked and made safe.  Ready for the big step. 

Screen capture while replaying the test; the time along the bottom is the recorded time at this point in the test, when the vehicle is venting gases from multiple places.

This is a test of a complex piece of hardware. They've built up to this point slowly and methodically, failing and improving all along the way.  Last Friday (as best I recall) SN8 was fitted with explosive charges to destroy the vehicle in flight should it get too far off course.  SpaceX has a pretty good few paragraphs on the webpage with their video link.
As early as Tuesday, December 8, the SpaceX team will make the first attempt of a high-altitude suborbital flight test of Starship serial number 8 (SN8) from our site in Cameron County, Texas. The schedule is dynamic and likely to change, as is the case with all development testing.

This suborbital flight is designed to test a number of objectives, from how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform to the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle (including its body flaps) to how the vehicle manages propellant transition. SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size.

With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.
They go on to say that between serial numbers SN5 and SN6, their hops and other tests, they've accumulated over 16,000 seconds - almost 4-1/2 hours - of run time during 330 ground engine starts, including multiple Starship static fires and four flight tests of the reusable methalox full-flow staged combustion Raptor engine. Additionally, with production accelerating and fidelity increasing, SpaceX has built 10 Starship prototypes.  Numbers 9 through 16 are in various stages of assembly there at Boca Chica.  The first Superheavy booster is being built up there as well.

Elon Musk flew into Brownsville yesterday, and tweeted he was out on the pad this afternoon.  That automatically makes the big test look closer.  As a comment by reader Homesteader said on Friday, this feels like being on the dunes at Kitty Hawk when the Wright Brothers came. 


  1. I was watching a bit last night, and sitting there all shiny and illuminated, it reminded me of spaceship "Luna" from Destination Moon.

    1. One thing about SN8 (and 9) is it has stubby little legs. I remember Elon saying they're going to redo them to be more like Falcon 9 but nothing yet. It would be a shame to see them go through the complicated maneuver, stick the landing, and a little excess momentum collapses legs causing the whole thing to collapse onto the ground.

      It would be better if it landed on big fins like Luna.

  2. Your Kitty Hawk comment is right on. I hadn't thought about it quite that way, but that is exactly what is happening, and where we are in starting our diaspora into the solar system.

    This is 'way more important that the Apollo program, and look how that captured the world's attention.

    I wonder how many people haven't heard about the Starship efforts and are just tuning in. And how many of those start frantically looking for the stock symbol for SpaceX only to discover that there ain't one. And then go buy TSLA because Elon Musk can obviously "git 'er done"...

  3. You had me at "explosive charges."

    No matter what happens, SN8 will be the latest 'most beautiful thing I've ever seen.'

  4. Hey- I hadn't realized I'd articulated the zeitgeist; I'm

    It's funny- so many people have been decrying 2020 as a bad year-
    I see it as a tumultuous one;
    with as much wonder and hope in it as any I've ever known.

    Seeing one of those fat Bradburys
    land on its tail in person is now on my bucket list.