SpaceX hopes to launch and land a new prototype of its Starship mega-rocket next week. The last 3 exploded.

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Elon Musk (right) needs Starships to stop exploding (left) to realize his dream of a fully reusable mega-rocket.

Starship launches have become a regular occurrence at SpaceX’s rocket-development facilities in Boca Chica, Texas. For the second time this month, the company is preparing to fly an advanced prototype of its next spaceship. That could happen as early as Monday.

Called Starship serial No. 11, or SN11, the prototype is set to roar tens of thousands of feet into the air, shut off its engines, flip sideways, then freefall back to Earth. Four wing flaps should control the rocket’s fall, and its engines should re-fire just in time to flip it upright and lower it to the landing pad.

SpaceX has launched three such high-altitude test flights already, but each ended with a catastrophic explosion. The first two prototypes, SN8 and SN9, slammed into the landing pad at high speed and exploded immediately. The third, SN10, landed in one piece but blew up 10 minutes later.

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From left to right: The SN8, SN9, and SN10 explosions.

All these prototypes represent the upper stage of a two-part system: Eventually, a roughly 23-story booster called Super Heavy would heave the Starship spaceship toward orbit. The whole system is meant to be fully and rapidly reusable, which could enable SpaceX to slash the cost of reaching space 1,000-fold.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s long-term vision is for the system to fly astronauts to the moon and power hypersonic travel on Earth. He has said he plans to build 1,000 Starships in order to carry people and cargo to Mars and establish a Martian settlement.

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Spectators gather to watch SpaceX roll out the SN11 prototype.

SpaceX was preparing the prototype for flight on Friday, after conducting a static-fire engine test, but appeared to cancel those plans about five hours before the launch window closed.

“Standing down SN11 until probably Monday,” Musk tweeted Friday afternoon. “Additional checkouts are needed. Doing our best to land & fully recover.”

We will update this post once SpaceX confirms the launch date.

Watch the Starship prototype fly live

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A screengrab from a SpaceX livestream shows SN10 ascending in the skies above Boca Chica, Texas on March 3, 2021.

SpaceX is expected to broadcast the test flight live, as it did with the last three. That livestream will be embedded below once it becomes available. In the meantime, a few fans of the company are broadcasting from the launch facilities.

LabPadre offers six unique views of the Starship launch site. Below is the channel’s main 4K-resolution feed.

For a more distant view of the launch site – broadcast from the top of a resort in South Padre Island about 6 miles away – check out SPadre’s 24-hour live feed.

NASASpaceflight offers broadcasts with multiple high-quality camera views and input from a group of knowledgeable commentators. Their livestream will be embedded below once it’s available.

Read the original article on Business Insider