Watch live: SpaceX is fueling its Starship for a high-altitude flight [Updated]
December 9, 2020
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Original story 12:45pm EST: SpaceX is readying its Starship prototype vehicle for a second launch attempt on Wednesday afternoon from its South Texas Launch Site. The launch window extends until 5pm local time (23:00 UTC), and sources suggested any liftoff would occur no earlier than 2pm local time.

The company got very close to launching the “SN8” prototype on Tuesday evening before the attempt automatically aborted with just 1.3 seconds left in the countdown. It is not clear what caused the last-second scrub—perhaps a pressure or temperature reading just outside of acceptable levels—but SpaceX engineers appear to have addressed the issue.

The weather at the coastal launch site remains nearly perfect on Wednesday, with light winds and clear skies. Should a technical issue arise again, there are additional opportunities on Thursday and Friday. However, the South Texas weather will be much more windy on those days, perhaps too much for a flight.

This will be the first time SpaceX has attempted to fly Starship to a high altitude—the vehicle may fly as high as 12.5km. Previous test flights have only gone up to about 150 meters, and those vehicles have not included the flaps, nose cone, and other features needed to control the vehicle’s flight in the thin upper atmosphere. Managing this is no small feat, as the massive vehicle stands more than 50 meters tall and is rather broad.

Because so much of this test will be new for the vehicle and its engineers, it is more likely than not that a failure will occur. Perhaps that’s why hundreds of thousands of people were tuned in to SpaceX’s brief webcast of Tuesday’s launch attempt—there remains so much uncertainty about precisely what will occur.

As we await the second attempt today, feel free to peruse the gallery of images captured early Wednesday morning by Trevor Mahlmann, who visited the launch site before Boca Chica Boulevard was closed to through traffic for the test.

Update 3:10pm EST: The webcast below is unlikely to begin more than five minutes before the launch attempt, which is now likely to occur no earlier than 3pm local time (21:00 UTC).

SN8 high-altitude flight test.

Listing image by Trevor Mahlmann

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