Elon Musk, SpaceX aim to launch SN15 Mars rocket prototype Tuesday


SN10 takes flight. SN15 features several upgrades over its predecessors.


Tuesday is the latest target date for a launch of the newest Starship.

After four successful test flights of SpaceX’s next-generation rocket prototypes all ended in dramatic explosions during the landing phase, Elon’s Musk’s space company is skipping ahead to SN15, a new version of its interplanetary vehicle.

SpaceX has conducted high-altitude test flights of prototypes SN8 through SN11 and has long planned to integrate what Musk has called “major upgrades” into SN15. Now the company is skipping SN12, SN13 and SN14, which were never fully assembled, and working toward a flight of SN15.

Musk has said SN15 “has hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software and engine,” including, hopefully, upgrades to cover some of the problems that have prevented SpaceX from sticking the landing so far without a rapid unscheduled disassembly.

SN15 has undergone some initial testing, and Musk initially tweeted that the aim was to launch last month, but that target continued to slip. Last Thursday the FAA said it had approved a launch license covering SN15, SN16 and SN17, but it currently looks like we’ll have to wait till at least Tuesday to see it fly, according to current airspace, road and beach closures around the Boca Chica, Texas,  launch facility.

SN15 could launch anytime (or not at all) within the approved windows once all the required closures and permissions are in place. We usually don’t have any firm sense of when it’ll blast off until less than an hour before liftoff appears set to happen. (Even then, false starts are common.)

So for now, keep your fingers crossed that we see SN15 fly (and land!). We’ll post a live feed of the launch right here once it’s available.

We’ll update this post at least daily as things change, and for more-incremental updates, tune in to my Twitter feed @EricCMack.

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