Starship SN15’s high-altitude flight test follows four previous attempts that all ended in massive explosions.
Mr Musk said previous issues with the rocket’s Raptor engines have been fixed “six ways to Sunday”, though if it fails to land cleanly there are more Starship prototypes currently under development.
Airspace clearance had been approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), road closures were in place with Cameron County, and marine hazard notices had been issued.
Just before 1pm local time (7pm BST), Cameron County updated its website to state that local roads in Boca Chica had been reopened.
SpaceX is yet to give an official reason for cancelling the Starship launch. Another attempt is expected to take place on Monday.
Cameron County posts road closure notices
Cameron County has updated its website overnight to include road closure notices for today and tomorrow.
The good news it it’s a big eight-hour launch window today. The not-so-good news is that it’s going to be a late one, especially for anyone in Europe.
The window opens at midday local time, which is 7pm BST. SpaceX then has until 8pm local time to get Starship SN15 off the ground.
SpaceX has left it late before in previous high-altitude flight tests of its Starship prototypes, with one taking place with less than an hour left in the launch window. We have at least another eight hours to wait to find out.
Anthony Cuthbertson4 May 2021 09:15
Starship SN15 flight expected Tuesday
There will be no Starship SN15 flight test today, after the Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) was removed for Monday.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration’s website, TFRs are in place for Tuesday and Wednesday.
Cameron County is yet to update its website with road closure notices but these can be posted relatively last minute.
Anthony Cuthbertson3 May 2021 09:36
SpaceX issues evacuation notice
Unusually for a weekend, SpaceX has issued an evacuation alert notice for today. It warns that “space flight activities” between 5am and 7pm could pose a danger to local residents of Boca Chica Village.
For example, a malfunction of some kind could create an “overpressure event” that leads to broken windows. It is the same wording that was used in an alert notice ahead of a Starship SN15 static fire test earlier this week.
There are currently no road closures in place around the Starbase facility in Boca Chica, suggesting that whatever testing is going on is not a flight test.
We’ll let you know if this changes, but as things stand we are expecting a fresh launch attempt as early as Monday.
Anthony Cuthbertson1 May 2021 12:14
Roads reopen around SpaceX’s Starbase facility as Starship SN15 launch scrubbed
Cameron County has just updated its website, cancelling the road closures that were in place today.
No reason has been given, and there’s been no official word from SpaceX, but that signals that today’s Starship SN15 launch is off.
Cameron County does not authorise launches over the weekend, so the next opportunity will likely be on Monday.
We’ll bring you any updates if the situation changes, but otherwise we’ll be back on Monday. Thanks for joining us, and hopefully see you then!
Anthony Cuthbertson30 April 2021 18:58
Starship SN15 launch scrubbed.
Anthony Cuthbertson30 April 2021 18:48
How the Starship SN15 launch should go
All four high-altitude flight tests of Starship craft have ended in explosions, with only one – Starship SN10 – actually managing to stick the landing (before exploding on the landing pad eight minutes later).
The tests last roughly six minutes from lift off to landing, and according to SpaceX Starship should be “powered through ascent by three Raptor engines, each shutting down in sequence prior to the vehicle reaching apogee – approximately 10 km in altitude.”
Starship SN15 should then perform “a propellant transition to the internal header tanks, which hold landing propellant, before reorienting itself for reentry and a controlled aerodynamic descent”.
This looks something like a belly-flop in practice, and should be followed by a complex landing flip manoeuvre powered by one or two of the Raptor engines that will take the craft steadily to the ground.
Hopefully it won’t look like this:
But instead more like this:
Anthony Cuthbertson30 April 2021 18:21
SpaceX yet to evacuate village
One of the main fundamentals for the launch to proceed is the evacuation of Boca Chica Village, which is yet to happen.
These can be issued at very late notice, and are necessary to protect residents from falling debris, or even broken windows caused by explosions.
The final factor potentially holding back today’s attempt is the weather. It’s looking very overcast at the moment, and there is a storm front not too far away.
Poor visibility is not enough to hold back the launch – as evidenced by the fog-shrouded Starship SN11 test – however lightning or heavy wind and rain could scupper plans for the launch.
It is currently forecast to be dry over Boca Chica, Texas for the next six hours, but that could change. Here’s the current weather radar:
Anthony Cuthbertson30 April 2021 17:36
Starship SN15 status
There are numerous variables that need to line up for a Starship flight test to go ahead.
These include airspace clearance and flight approval with the FAA, local road closures in place with Cameron County, evacuation of the nearby Boca Chica Village, a marine hazard notice posting – as well as all the technical preparations for the actual rocket itself.
It’s for this reason that SpaceX doesn’t actually publicise its launch attempt times until just a few minutes to go, but we know it could be anytime between now and 5pm local time (11pm BST), as per the road closures in place.
The FAA has also authorised the launch, releasing a statement yesterday. The good news is, it appears to cover launches for Starship SN16 and Starship SN17. Here’s what the agency said:
Anthony Cuthbertson30 April 2021 16:38
Here we go again…
Hello and welcome to The Independent’s live coverage of SpaceX’s latest attempt to launch and land a Starship rocket.
It’s been an entire month since the last major test, but hopefully it will be worth the wait.
Anthony Cuthbertson30 April 2021 16:04