SpaceX aborts pivotal suborbital test flight of Starship SN8 rocket at the last moment

SpaceX was supposed to conduct a pivotal test flight of a prototype of its next gen Starship rocket to its highest altitude. However, even as SpaceX counted all the way down to launch on Tuesday, at 1.3 seconds to lift off, the Raptor engines initiated an abort and the Starship prototype did not take flight. The vehicle known as Starship SN8 was schedule to launch from SpaceX’s South Texas facility, near the Gulf Coast village of Boca Chica.

According to the SpaceX website, the SpaceX team stood down from the attempt of a high-altitude suborbital flight test due to a Raptor engine auto-abort, a second short of the scheduled lift-off time. The statement added that SpaceX has additional test opportunities available on Wednesday, 9 December and Thursday, 10 December. The schedule is dynamic and like with every other development testing, is likely to change.

SpaceX is preparing to attempt its highest test flight with the Starship prototype SN8 in South Texas. Image: SpaceX

According to SpaceX, the suborbital flight is designed to test a number of objectives, from testing how the vehicle’s three Raptor engines perform to the overall aerodynamic entry capabilities of the vehicle, as well as how the vehicle manages propellant transition. As per SpaceX, SN8 will also attempt to perform a landing flip manoeuvre, a first for a vehicle of its size.

The SpaceX statement revealed that in the past year alone, they have completed two low-altitude flight tests with Starship SN5 and SN6 and accumulated over 16,000 seconds of run time during 330 ground engine starts, as well as multiple Starship static fires and four flight tests of the methalox full-flow staged combustion Raptor engine.

SpaceX added that SN8’s flight test is a new step in the development of a fully reusable transportation system capable of carrying both cargo and crew to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and other places in space.