Spaceflight Insider

Starship SN15 poised to fly, as Elon heads to New York for SNL appearance

Starship vehicle serial number 15 (SN15) rests on the launch pad prior to its much anticipated test flight, now expected for May 5, 2021. Credit: Nicholas D’Alessandro / Spaceflight Insider

Starship SN15 was by all public accounts set to fly Tuesday, May 4, with road closures, Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs), and all expected FAA paperwork beleived to be in place.

EDITORS UPDATE (Wed, May 5, 2021):
The SN15 test flight was successfully flown on May 5, 2021; our flight day report is published and available, here.

SpaceX decided to call off the attempt, made clear mid-day by the cancellation of the State Road 4 road closure. Weather was cited as the main concern, due to storms being forecast for the area after sunset, which would have complicated potential recovery operations, as reported by local Boca Chica Village residents in contact with SpaceX during the evacuation.

A SpaceX worker relocates one of the Raptor engines at the Boca Chica, Tx test site for the Starship program, ahead of the SN15 test flight. Credit: Nicholas D’Alessandro / Spaceflight Insider

Although this additional delay to the much anticipated inaugural flight of this new generation of Starship prototype (SN15 stands for Serial Number 15, which is said to incorporate many design and construction differences from SN11, the last test article to fly) may have disappointed some space fans – many of whom who were hopeful for a successful test on Star Wars day – this does show that SpaceX is confident enough in chances of a successful landing to seriously consider how weather systems might affect a potentially free-standing vehicle on the landing pad, post-test.

Starship SN15’s next flight attempt is expected on Wednesday, May 5 with road closures and TFRs in place for a backup date of Thursday, May 6. Per the filed road closure, the test flight can occur within a 12pm-8pm CST road closure window on either day; launches have typically occurred in the middle to later portions of issued closures.

That being said, hopes are not high for a late-week test; the weather forecast is looking sub-optimal for the remainder of the week and it remains to be seen if Elon Musk’s travel to New York City (he and family arrived Monday evening, ahead of his scheduled appearance on Saturday Night Live this Saturday, May 8) will delay the flight any further. Leveraging the power of his social media following for feedback, Musk has been exploring various skit ideas (“Irony Man“, and “Baby Shark Tank“) ahead of his first hosting experience on the show.

Additional developments and updates will be posted as they emerge.


Nicholas D'Alessandro was born and raised in Southwest Florida. The seeds of his interest in Space Exploration were planted when the Shuttle's sonic boom upon re-entry would reverberate through his childhood home even across the state; the knowledge that a real life spacecraft was passing overhead and could have that effect was fascinating to him. A middle school field trip to the Kennedy Space Center cemented that fascination, and with an additional interest in the bleeding edge of automotive technology and Teslas, it was the story of Elon Musk's path to Cape Canaveral with SpaceX that finally led Nicholas to move to the Space Coast and, after joining Spaceflight Insider in 2020, begin documenting the dawning era of commercial spaceflight.

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