SpaceX is about to attempt another spacecraft launch. The last two exploded

SpaceX is preparing to launch its latest Starship prototype tens of thousands of feet in the air this week.

The challenge is to land it back on the ground: that maneuver ended in an explosion both times the company tried it before. This time, SpaceX founder Elon Musk estimated that the prototype has a 60 percent chance of a successful landing.

The prototype represents the upper stage of a two-part system: finally, a roughly 23-story thruster called the Super Heavy would launch the Starship spacecraft into orbit. Musk’s long-term vision is that the system will one day take astronauts to the moon and enable hypersonic travel on Earth. It has said it plans to build 1,000 starships to transport people and cargo to Mars.

But first, SpaceX has to figure out how to land the rocket, as that’s critical to making the system reusable. Full reuse could help Starship reduce the cost of reaching space by 1,000 times.

The newest prototype is called Starship serial number 10, or SN10. It’s not yet clear exactly when SpaceX plans to attempt its test flight, but Musk saying on Sunday there are “good chances” for release this week.

When that happens, SN10 will roar tens of thousands of feet above the SpaceX facility in Boca Chica, Texas. One by one, it should shut off its engines as it nears the top of its flight, then flip sideways and plummet back to Earth in a controlled tummy motion. As it approaches the ground, the rocket must fire its engines once more to get upright in time to slow its descent and lightly touch the landing pad.

The last two times SpaceX made such a flight, the prototypes crashed into its runways and exploded. captured the second incident with a camera on top of a building about 10 km away:

Starship splosion

Before this upcoming launch, SpaceX needs to perform a static shot to test the rocket’s engines, but the company appears to have all the government clearance it needs for the launch. That includes a launch license approval, local road closures and airspace closures.

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued airspace closure notices for the area from 8 am to 6:30 pm CT on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Cameron County, Texas, also issued a Boca Chica highway closure notice from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. CT for Thursday. However, road and airspace closures can be canceled and rescheduled over and over again until SpaceX is actually ready for launch.

We will update this post once SpaceX confirms the timing of its launch attempt.

SpaceX faces regulatory hurdles for Starship to enter orbit

SpaceX’s two previous test flights, those of the SN8 and SN9 prototypes, were considered successes despite their final explosives. That’s because they showed that Starship is capable of shooting up to suborbital heights and then controlling its fall.

However, those flights resulted in FAA investigations, as the agency wanted to determine the cause of the explosions. It turned out that SN8 had been a victim of low pressure in a booster tank, causing the spacecraft to fall too fast and crash into its landing pad.

An additional problem with that attempt was that SpaceX had not obtained proper approval from the FAA, violating its launch license.

This triggered its own investigation, which later halted flight SN9. Once that prototype flew, one of its three Raptor engines did not reignite when the rocket approached the ground.

All of those investigations have been closed, an FAA spokesman told a CNN reporter. Jackie wattles. And the launch license updates for flight SN10 are approved, according to the Washington Post reporter. Christian davenport.

Eventually, SpaceX will want to put a spacecraft into orbit to test its ability to re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. That will require a different type of license from the FAA, but obtaining it means overcoming many regulatory hurdles, including a thorough environmental assessment.

(The environmental impact statement SpaceX previously completed for the Boca Chica launches focused on the company’s smaller rockets, rather than its much larger Starship-Super Heavy system.)

The company is now waiting to begin that environmental assessment, but depending on the findings, SpaceX may need to make a new impact statement, which could take up to three years.

Complicating matters is a leaked FAA preliminary document, obtained by Insider, which revealed that SpaceX plans to dig natural gas wells in Boca Chica to power spacecraft and power plants. Such plans could also affect SpaceX’s environmental review process.

This article was originally published by Business Insider.

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