Elon Musk and SpaceX aim to launch an upgraded Starship prototype soon

SN10 takes flight. SN15 features several upgrades over its predecessors.


After four successful test flights of its next-generation Starship prototypes all ended in dramatic explosions during the landing phase, SpaceX is skipping ahead to SN15, a new version of its interplanetary rocket.

Elon Musk’s company has conducted high-altitude test flights of prototypes SN8 through SN11 and has long been planning to integrate what Musk has called “major upgrades” into SN15. Now the company is skipping SN12, SN13 and SN14, which were never fully assembled, and working toward a flight of SN15 as soon as Monday.

Musk has said SN15 “has hundreds of design improvements across structures, avionics/software and engine” including, hopefully, upgrades to cover some of the problems that have prevented SpaceX from sticking the landing so far without a rapid unscheduled disassembly.

SN15 has already undergone some initial testing over the past week and Musk tweeted Thursday that the aim is to launch next week.

Road and beach closures are currently scheduled around the SpaceX Starship development facility at Boca Chica, Texas, for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. PT (noon to 8 p.m. CT) each day.

SN15 could launch any time (or not at all) within those windows, and we usually don’t have any firm sense of when it will blast-off until less than an hour before it happens (and even then, false starts are common).

So for right now, keep your fingers crossed that we see SN15 fly (and land!) next week. We’ll post a live feed of the launch right here once it is available.

This post will be updated at least daily as things change, and for more incremental updates, tune into my Twitter feed @EricCMack.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.  

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