Spaceflight Insider

Following FAA approval, SpaceX set to fly Starship SN9 today

Starships SN9, right, and SN10 stand tall at the Boca Chica launch complex on the morning of Jan. 30. SpaceX has been granted permission to fly Starship SN9 as early as Feb. 2. It appears the company will be launching while SN10 is on a nearby pad. Credit: Nicholas D'Alessandro / Spaceflight Insider

Starships SN9, right, and SN10 stand tall at the Boca Chica launch complex on the morning of Jan. 30. SpaceX has been granted permission to fly Starship SN9 as early as Feb. 2. It appears the company will be launching while SN10 is on a nearby pad. Credit: Nicholas D’Alessandro / Spaceflight Insider

Late on Feb. 1, the Federal Aviation Administration granted approval for SpaceX to test its Starship SN9 prototype as early as Feb. 2.

This approval comes after some confusion last week about why SpaceX had not yet been given clearance by the FAA. It turns out that the two organizations were still working through safety details stemming from the SN8 flight in December 2020.

According to Christian Davenport of the Washington post, the FAA said in a statement that SpaceX sought a waiver for the SN8 test “to exceed the maximum public risk allowed by federal safety regulations. After the FAA denied the request, SpaceX proceeded with the flight.”

Davenport reported that the FAA required SpaceX to investigate, which meant that all testing that could affect public safety at the Boca Chica, Texas, launch site was suspended until the investigation was completed and corrective actions implemented.

“Those actions are in the SN9 license granted late yesterday,” Davenport tweeted.

So, SpaceX has FAA approval. There is a temporary flight restriction (TFR) that is in effect between 8 a.m. and 5:59 p.m. CDT (14:00 to 23:59 UTC) today, Feb. 2. The residents at Boca Chica Village (located 2.5 kilometers from the test site) are set to be evacuated and the roads in the area closed this morning. Additionally, at least visibly, the weather is clear.

The test is expected to be visually similar to the SN8 flight. Starship will fly to about 10 kilometers cutting off each of the three Raptor engines one at a time. At apogee, the vehicle is expected to pitch over and perform a controlled aerodynamic descent before performing a last-second landing flip maneuver.

Starship at sunrise. Credit: Nicholas D'Alessandro / Spaceflight Insider

Starship at sunrise. Credit: Nicholas D’Alessandro / Spaceflight Insider

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Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity.

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