Elon Musk's last three early-model, next-generation rockets have all metafter their maiden high-altitude test flights. The latest prototype, SN11, is on the launch pad at the SpaceX Starship development facility in Boca Chica, Texas, and could fly as soon as Tuesday.
SpaceX had been eyeing a possible Monday launch, but Musk tweeted, "FAA inspector unable to reach Starbase in time for launch today. Postponed to no earlier than tomorrow." Starbase is the . The Federal Aviation Administration decides .
is the big rocket Musk has promised will eventually deliver humans to the moon, Mars and perhaps beyond by the end of this decade.
The requirement that a safety inspector be physically present is a new addition to the launch license for the Boca Chica site, part of the fall-out from an apparent mix-up in December that saw.
"SpaceX must provide adequate notice of its launch schedule to allow for a FAA safety inspector to travel to Boca Chica," the agency said in an emailed statement Monday after Musk's tweet announcing the latest delay.
The SN series of prototypes are stripped-down, three-engine versions of the spacecraft. SN8, SN9 and SN10 all made successful high-altitude flights followed by progressively softer but still too-hard landings. SN8 and SN9 both exploded on impact, while the SN10 exploded on the landing pad several minutes after a rough touchdown.
The hope is SN11 can be the first of its kind to survive a flight and landing.
The prototype underwent a pair of test firings last week, when SpaceX announced a flight attempt could come as soon as last Friday, but the flight was called off for the day to allow more time for technical check-outs and local roads were reopened.
Road, beach and airspace closures are now in place or a potential launch attempt Tuesday between 5 a.m. and 1 p.m. PT (7 a.m. and 3 p.m. CT). However, as always, the test flight schedule is subject to change at a moment's notice.
Also keep in mind there's no set time for the flight attempt inside the aforementioned window. Basically, the team at Boca Chica has a checklist to work through before launch and when all items have been checked, SN11 will be fueled up for flight.
Once fueling begins, launch is typically about 30 to 45 minutes away. A SpaceX livestream of the test flight should begin about five minutes before blastoff, and we'll embed that feed here. Keep an eye on my Twitter feed @ericcmack for incremental updates.
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