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SpaceX Starship SN9 test-fires ahead of next high-altitude flight

SN9 is on deck to boldly follow in the footsteps of SN8, which bravely sacrificed itself in the name of iteration.

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Nose cone of SpaceX Starship SN8

This is just the nose of Starship SN8.

Elon Musk

SpaceX continues working toward another high-altitude test flight of its next-generation spaceflight system.

The latest prototype of Elon Musk's Starship, which is identified by the serial number SN9, underwent a series of three static test fires on Wednesday, Jan. 13. The tests are part of a series of checks leading up to a launch that could come as soon as Friday but appears more likely to take place next week. 

Airspace restrictions are in place around Boca Chica, Texas, for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. However the local road closures that typically accompany a launch haven't been announced for those days. In the past, SpaceX has reportedly agreed not to perform launches on weekends to limit the disruption to the local community. There are road closures scheduled for next Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, which suggests to me that next week is a better bet to see SN9 actually get off the ground.

The earliest potential flight date has been pushed back several times now since the start of the year.

SpaceX has been testing and iterating 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 on Friday, 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. It seems equally likely we may have to wait until later in the month.

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