The silver SpaceX rocket was pencilled in for a test launch between Monday, March 18, and Friday, March 22. SpaceX moved the gleaming stainless steel rocket to its launch pad in preparation in Boca Chica near Brownsville, Texas. The rocket company last hoped to launch the starship on Thursday between 3pm GMT and 9pm GMT (10am CST and 4pm CST). Weather permitting, the same launch window is expected to open later today.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk teased online the rocket would “hopefully” take off from the ground by next week.
But the Starship is for now grounded until the weather conditions in south Texas clear for launch.
SpaceX spokesman James Gleeson told the Brownsville Herald, the spaceship was being prepped for an engine test.
He said: “SpaceX will conduct checkouts of the newly installed ground systems and perform a short static fire test in the days ahead.
“Although the prototype is designed to perform suborbital flights, or hops, powered by the SpaceX Raptor engine, the vehicle will be tethered during initial testing and hopes will not be visible from offsite.”
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At most, the stainless steel rocket will only rise a few feet from the ground, which has earned it the Starhopper nickname.
The news comes after eagle-eyed SpaceX fans spotted road closure announcements near the site of SpaceX’s facility.
One such notice, dated March 15 and shared online on Reddit, reads: “SpaceX is planning to conduct testing as soon as the week of March 18, 2019, at the company’ site located near Boca Chica Beach, Cameron County, Texas.
“During these those tests, SpaceX will establish a safety zone perimeter in coordination with local law enforcement.”
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Twitter user @flcnhvy tweeted the notice at SpaceX boss Elon Musk, asking if tests were happening next week.
Mr Musk replied: “Hopefully. Always many issued integrating ending and stage. First hops will lift off but only barely.”
The Starship’s static fire test will precede attempts to put the spacecraft into suborbital flight.
The Starship will use a total of three SpaceX Raptor engines, which were tested early in February last month.
However, for the purpose of the initial tests, the Starship is only fitted with one of the powerful rockets for “really short” hops.
During the test launch, SpaceX will pump the rocket with liquid methane and oxygen propellant.
All of these steps are building towards SpaceX’s first trip beyond the Moon and back, which was booked by Japanese art collector Yusaku Maezawa.
Mr Maezawa is expected to blast off towards the Moon by 2023.