Elon Musk Gives 1 in 3 Odds Of Landing Intact For SpaceX’s Next Starship Test Flight To 50,000 ft Altitude
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SpaceX may attempt the next test flight of its Starship prototype rocket as early as Wednesday, December 2, 2020 (this test flight has been delayed until Friday, December 4, 2020), CEO Elon Musk shared on Twitter. The flight will be the company’s most ambitious test of Starship yet, as SpaceX is aiming to reach about 50,000 feet altitude with Starship prototype Serial Number 8, or SN8. That’s notably above the 500-foot flights of the prototype’s predecessors SN5 and SN6, which completed flight tests on Aug. 5 and Sept. 3, respectively. The launch attempt will follow a “static fire” that is scheduled for Monday – a test when SpaceX will fire the rocket’s engines briefly. Starship SN8 is built of stainless steel, with the prototypes representing the first versions of the rocket that Musk unveiled last year. The company is developing Starship with the goal of launching cargo and as many as a 100 people at a time on missions to the Moon and Mars. SpaceX is aiming to pass several further development milestones with Starship SN8′s flight. Musk outlined last week that SpaceX’s goals for SN8’s flight are “to test 3 engine ascent, body flaps, transition from main to header tanks & landing flip.” But asked what he thought about chances of the Starship prototype landing intact after the flight, Musk gave SN8 low odds of complete success on the first try.”Lot of things need to go right, so maybe 1/3 chance,” Musk said. While SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship fully reusable — envisioning a rocket that is more akin to a commercial airplane, with short turnaround times between flights where the only major cost is fuel. The company is building the Starship prototypes at its growing facility in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX plans to continue expanding its launch complex there, according to a proposal published by published by the Federal Aviation Administration in May. Musk has pivoted the company’s attention to Starship ever since SpaceX in May successfully launched its first astronaut mission. He’s deemed Starship the company’s top priority, declaring in an email obtained by CNBC earlier this year that the development program must accelerate “dramatically and immediately.”Last year Musk said that Starship could potentially fly people in 2020, but he’s since acknowledged that the rocket still has many milestones, including “hundreds of missions,” to go before that happens. SpaceX expects Starship’s first orbital flight test won’t come until next year. Subscribe to CNBC PRO for exclusive insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world, in the video “Elon Musk says SpaceX’s next Starship test flight may happen as early as“, below: