'Aiming for first 15km/50ft altitude flight next week'
Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has said SpaceX will perform the first proper flight of Starship next week after a successful test firing of the Mars-bound spacecraft.
The billionaire entrepreneur has promised to live stream the launch “warts and all,” claiming there is only a one in three chance of Starship landing in one piece, the Independent reported.
"Aiming for first 15km/50ft altitude flight next week," Musk tweeted on Wednesday.
“Goals are to test 3 engine ascent, flaps, transition from main to header tanks and landing flip… Lot of things need to go right, so maybe ⅓ chance.”
It is the eighth Starship prototype, with previous versions successfully performing a short 150m lift off and landing.
At least seven more prototypes are planned before a fully-fledged flight for Starship, though no precise timetable for its development has been publicly revealed.
Musk confirmed that Starship prototype Serial Number 8, or SN8, successfully completed a test firing of its three engines ahead of the flight attempt.
This next launch is aiming to reach about 50,000 feet altitude – well 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 built of stainless steel and represent the first versions of the rocket that Musk unveiled last year.
The company is developing Starship with the goal of launching cargo and as many as a 100 people at a time on missions to the Moon and Mars.
Those later prototypes are already in progress at SpaceX’s growing facility in Texas.
While SpaceX’s fleet of Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets are partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship fully reusable — envisioning a rocket that is more akin to a commercial airplane, with short turnaround times between flights where the only major cost is fuel.
Musk said that SN9 and SN10 feature “many small improvements,” with “major upgrades” planned once SpaceX begins work on prototype SN15.
Earlier this year, Musk made Starship SpaceX’s number one priority after growing frustrated with the rate of progress.
The 49-year-old has frequently spoken of his ambition to travel to Mars in his lifetime, famously stating that he hoped to die on the planet, “just not on impact.”