SN8 poised for launch today

A view of Starship SN8 at the SpaceX South Texas Launch Site as the SN8 and SpaceX crew plan a 15-kilometer altitude (9.3 miles) test flight and landing Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2020. (Miguel Roberts/The Brownsville Herald)

SpaceX is poised to make the first high-altitude, suborbital test flight from Boca Chica Beach today, with the SN8 Starship prototype.

As with every launch, however, it is subject to delay. SpaceX plans to take the three-engine rocket to about 41,000 feet, down from an earlier goal of 50,000 feet, before allowing a controlled free-fall descent followed be engine re-ignition and touchdown. The Federal Aviation Administration has issued Temporary Flight Restrictions for aircraft and drones for the Boca Chica site through Dec. 10 for a wide area surrounding the site “to provide a safe environment for rocket launch and recovery.”

Cameron County has ordered Boca Chica Beach and S.H. 4 from F.M. 1419 (Oklahoma Avenue) to the beach closed Dec. 8-9 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for a possible launch.

“The schedule is dynamic and likely to change, as is the case with all development testing,” according to SpaceX.

The company said the pending flight is meant to test the performance of the vehicle’s three Raptor engines and “overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle, including its body flaps,” plus transitioning propellant from one tank to another.

“SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip maneuver, which would be a first for a vehicle of this size,” according to SpaceX. “With a test such as this, success is not measured by completion of specific objectives but rather how much we can learn as a whole, which will inform and improve the probability of success in the future as SpaceX rapidly advances development of Starship.”

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Sept. 12: “One way or another, excitement guaranteed!”

The company is providing a live feed of the test beginning this morning. It is available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf83yzzme2I&feature=youtu.be