SpaceX stacks Starship SN8 prototype ahead of epic test flight

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SpaceX’s latest Starship prototype has been stacked in preparation for an ambitious test flight that will take the vehicle far higher than any of its predecessors have gone.

SpaceX personnel attached Starship SN8’s (“Serial No. 8”) nose cone yesterday (Oct. 22) at the company’s South Texas site, near the Gulf Coast village of Boca Chica. The vehicle is now in its flight configuration, poised for an uncrewed hop to a planned altitude of about 9 miles (15 kilometers).

SN8 has already taken a big step toward that hop, igniting its three Raptor engines in a “static fire” test earlier this week. The vehicle will likely perform a second static fire before lifting off, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said via Twitter last month.

Starship is the huge, next-gen vehicle that SpaceX is building to get people and payloads to distant destinations such as the moon and Mars, launch satellites to orbit and perform all of the company’s other spaceflight needs.

The 165-foot-tall (50 meters) Starship vehicle will launch from Earth atop a giant rocket known as Super Heavy, which has yet to fly even in prototype form. Both elements of this spaceflight system will be fully reusable, Musk has said; Super Heavy will return to Earth for vertical landings, and Starship will make multiple trips to and from the moon, Mars or wherever else it has been sent. (Starship will be powerful enough to launch itself off the moon and Mars, but it will need Super Heavy’s help to get off Earth.)

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