The SpaceX prototype rocket starship SN8 stands on the company’s launchpad in Boca Chica, Texas, before an engine test.
SpaceX aims to launch its latest starship rocket prototype “early next week”, CEO Elon Musk said on Tuesday, in what would be the rocket’s most ambitious flight test to date.
Musk confirmed that the starship prototype serial number 8, or SN8, successfully completed a test firing of its three engines before the flight attempt. This next launch aims to reach an altitude of about 50,000 feet above the 500-foot flights of the prototype’s predecessors SN5 and SN6, which completed flight tests on August 5 and September 3, respectively.
The prototypes are made of stainless steel and represent the first versions of the rocket that Musk unveiled last year. The company is developing starships with missions in missions on the Moon and Mars, with the goal of launching cargo and more than 100 people at a time.
SpaceX is aiming to pass several more developmental milestones with the flight of the starship SN8.
“The goal is to test 3 engines, transition from body flaps, main to header tanks and landing flips,” Musk said in a tweet.
Asked what he thought of his chances of landing a starship prototype after the flight, Musk gave the SN8 little success on the first try.
“A lot of things need to go the right way, so there’s probably a 1/3 chance,” Musk said.
“But that’s why we have SN9 and SN10,” Musk said.
Those later prototypes are already in progress at SpaceX’s growing facility in Boca Chica, Texas. While SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets is partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make the steership fully reusable – imagining a rocket that is more similar to commercial airplanes, Where the only major cost is fuel, with reduced turnaround time between flights.
Musk said SN9 and SN10 have “several minor improvements”, “major upgrades” planned after starting work on the SpaceX SN15.
The first starship prototype of SpaceX under construction near Boca Chica, Texas in 2019.
Subscribe to CNBC PRO For special insights and analysis, and live business day programming from around the world.