SpaceX schedules Starship launch the day after planned Raptor engine test fire

Public documents show that SpaceX has plans to static fire and launch its latest Starship prototype within a two-day period that could begin later today.

SpaceX shipped Starship SN11 from its Boca Chica, Texas rocket factory to test and launch facilities a mile down the road on March 8th, less than five days after Starship SN10 exploded minutes after touchdown. The very next day, SpaceX completed ambient-temperature proof testing, filling Starship with benign nitrogen gas to check for leaks and verify system health. Two days after that, Starship SN11 appeared to complete a several-hour cryogenic proof test – swapping nitrogen gas for its supercool liquid form – without issue.

Despite the seemingly successful ‘cryo proof,’ something prevented a subsequent static fire test planned on March 12th before any attempt could be made, delaying the next attempt until after the approaching weekend. An agreement between SpaceX, Cameron County, and the state of Texas currently prevents road closures (and thus rocket testing) on weekends falling between Labor Day and Memorial Day, rules meant to preserve some level of public access to Boca Chica Beach.

As a result, unless SpaceX is already ready to launch (it has waivers for three such weekend closures for launch attempts), the company has to wait until Monday even if a minor issue fixable in hours or a day or so scrubs Friday test plans. While inconvenient, it’s worth noting that the existence of that public beach and the strong regulations that protect its public domain is likely one of the only reasons the general public can still get as close as they can to SpaceX’s Boca Chica ‘Starbase’.

For whatever reason, that road closure agreement does still mean that SpaceX will (in theory) be able to test and launch any day of the week from May 31st to September 6th, save for a few holidays, effectively boosting the number of opportunities by 40% for those 14 weeks. Until then, SpaceX is doing everything it can to take full advantage of the five days a week it is allowed to test Starship prototypes. N

Notably, although Starships SN8 and SN9 both hit a few weeks of technical and regulatory snags while preparing for their high-altitude launch attempts, SpaceX has been gradually speeding up that process over time. Starship SN10, the first prototype of its kind to land in one piece, took just 33 days to go from pad arrival to liftoff and spent just 8 days between its first static fire and launch attempts. The same feats took Starship SN8 77 and 50 days, respectively, with SN9 splitting the difference at 43 days from transport to liftoff and 28 days between its first static fire and launch attempts.

Road closure requests, a safety warning for residents, and a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) filed with the FAA all suggest that SpaceX’s current plan is to attempt Starship SN11’s first triple-Raptor static fire between 6am and 12pm CDT on Monday, March 15th. If that test goes almost perfectly, SpaceX wants to turn the rocket around for a 10 km (6.2 mi) launch attempt on Tuesday, March 16th – the very next day. Given the past performance of high-altitude Starship prototypes, that target is decidedly ambitious and likely to incur delays, but it still reveals the true scope of SpaceX’s goals even at this early stage of development.

If Starship SN11 does manage to launch within a few days of its first static fire attempt, SpaceX would still crush SN10’s 33-day record by a factor of three. Stay tuned for updates on Monday’s possible Starship static fire and rapid Tuesday turnaround attempt

The post SpaceX schedules Starship launch the day after planned Raptor engine test fire appeared first on TESLARATI.

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