SpaceX is nearing the end of its short-hop Starship test flights. Elon Musk has tweeted that the company's SN8 Starship prototype "should be done in about a week."
The test will see SpaceX conduct Starship's first high-altitude test flight, with the spacecraft set to attempt a 60,000 feet (18,300 meters) flight before performing a controlled landing.
What's more, unlike previous Starship prototypes used on test flights, the SN8 will have a nosecone as well as flaps.
The Starship prototype's first high-altitude test flight
The SN8 will fly "with flaps & nosecone", Musk explained in his tweet. Other recent Starship prototypes, including the SN5 and SN6, have sported a simulated weight on top instead of a real nosecone, and haven’t had flaps to steer flight.
SN8 Starship with flaps & nosecone should be done in about a week. Then static fire, checkouts, static fire, fly to 60,000 ft & back.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2020
Musk didn't point out an exact date for the SN8 test flight, which will depend largely on weather conditions as well as the success of upcoming ground tests.
Another milestone for SpaceX
Now that the Crew Dragon has successfully taken humans to space with this summer's Demo-2 mission, the Starship is SpaceX's next big upcoming milestone, on its mission to make space travel cheaper and to get us to the red planet.
At 60,000 feet, the SN8 will still be some distance from orbit, however, this test will be one of the last before the Starship is launched into space for its maiden voyage tentatively planned for 2021.
All going well, next week we will see the Starship prototype's first high-altitude flight, a feat that will bring that much closer to seeing SpaceX succeed in its plans to take humans to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.