SpaceX targeting Wednesday for Starship SN9 test flight

SpaceX's Starship SN9 prototype performs a static-fire test on Jan. 22, 2021.
SpaceX's Starship SN9 prototype performs a static-fire test on Jan. 22, 2021. (Image credit: Elon Musk via Twitter)

Update for 12:30 p.m. EST on Jan. 27: The road closure for today (Jan. 27) has been canceled, indicating that SN9 will not launch today. The vehicle can now fly no earlier than Thursday (Jan. 28).

SpaceX's latest Starship prototype will take to the skies Wednesday (Jan. 27), if all goes according to plan.

The company originally aimed to launch the Starship SN9 vehicle on a high-altitude test flight yesterday (Jan. 26) but was apparently thwarted by bad weather at SpaceX's South Texas facilities, near the Gulf Coast village of Boca Chica. The new target date is now Wednesday, according to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk.

"We’re hoping for FAA approval of a test flight tomorrow afternoon," Musk said via Twitter early this morning (Jan. 26), referring to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

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SN9's upcoming flight is expected to be similar to the one performed last month by its predecessor. Starship SN8 — which, like SN9, sported three Raptor engines — soared about 7.8 miles (12.5 kilometers) above Boca Chica on Dec. 9, acing all of its tasks except the final one. SN8 came down at its designated landing site a bit too fast, exploding in a dramatic fireball. 

SpaceX is developing Starship to take people and cargo to the moon, Mars and other distant destinations. The architecture consists of two reusable elements: a 165-foot-tall (50 meters) spacecraft called Starship and a giant rocket named Super Heavy.

The final Starship will be powered by six Raptors, and Super Heavy will have about 30 of the engines, Musk has said. (Starship will be able to launch itself off the moon and Mars but will need Super Heavy to leave Earth.)

Many other Starship prototypes will follow SN8 and SN9 into the skies in the near future, if all goes according to SpaceX's plan. For example, the SN10 vehicle has been fully assembled and is expected to begin testing soon.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook. 

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.