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SpaceX Starship SN9 reloads its Raptors ahead of high-altitude flight

SpaceX Starship SN9 reloads its Raptors ahead of high-altitude flight

Nose cone of SpaceX Starship SN8

This is the nose of Starship SN8.

Elon Musk

The latest SpaceX Starship prototype got some fresh Raptor engines and is being prepped for another test firing before a high-altitude test flight as early as this Wednesday.

Elon Musk’s new Mars rocket iteration, which is identified by the serial number SN9, underwent a series of three static test fires on Wednesday, Jan. 13. Afterward, Musk said two of its three engines required slight repairs and would be switched out. That took place over the weekend and next up will be the test-firing of the newly refreshed SN9.

The latest airspace closure notices to pilots indicate that we could see this test happen as soon as Tuesday, with a launch the following day. However, this is an optimistic best-case scenario. The launch of SN9 has been repeatedly pushed back over the past few weeks, so it wouldn’t be surprising if we have to wait until later this month or even into February before it finally gets off the ground.

SpaceX has been testing and tweaking its Starship design over the past two years, beginning with a series of low-altitude “hops.” The first successful flight of significant altitude came last month when SN8 reached approximately the same altitude where commercial jets do much of their cruising.

The milestone was then followed by a fall back to Earth and a new landing maneuver that seemed to succeed in orienting the rocket, but alas SN8 came in too fast and met a spectacular and explosive end.

SpaceX SN8 flew high and landed hard.

SpaceX/CNET video capture by Jackson Ryan

We could get lucky and see the sequel to the ordeal of SN8 this week, but scrubs and delays have been part of the routine in Starship’s development process. Heck, I I’ve already updated this post several times.

Whenever SN9 flies, we’ll be sure to carry the video here. Stay tuned.

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