SN5 finally hops: SpaceX nails first full-size Starship prototype flight

After aborting planned test flights late Monday and again Tuesday morning, SpaceX on Tuesday evening successfully flew its Starship SN5 prototype and set it down again on a nearby pad at the company’s Boca Chica launch/test site 22 miles east of Brownsville.

The flight came two days after SpaceX brought U.S. astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley safely home from the International Space Station aboard the company’s Crew Dragon space capsule, and five days after a successful static-fire test of SN5’s single Raptor engine at Boca Chica.

Tuesday’s hop was the first test flight of a full-size Starship prototype, and the first flight at Boca Chica since last August, when the rudimentary prototype Starhopper flew to 492 feet before landing after a flight lasting less than one minute.

Tuesday morning, a launch seemed imminent after the 10-minute siren was sounded around 11:25 a.m. as a warning to Boca Chica Village residents, with plumes of liquid oxygen vapor issuing from the SN5 and the nearby “tank farm” where propellant is stored. The launch was scrubbed again, with no explanation from Musk, though he tweeted that a second attempt would “most likely” be made on Tuesday.

Finally, at around 6:45 p.m. the warning siren was sounded and SN5 launched at 6:57 p.m. and flew for 45 or 50 seconds before touching down upright on a nearby pad.

Shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr. announced a new round of testing-related closures for S.H. 4 near the SpaceX complex, with Aug. 5 from 9 a.m. to midnight as the primary date and Aug. 6-7 as alternate dates, with closures also from 9 a.m. to midnight.

A Temporary Flight Restriction for the SpaceX Boca Chica area issued Aug. 2 by the Federal Aviation Administration, prohibiting aircraft operations near the launch site from the surface up to and including 26,000 feet, was in force until 8 p.m. Tuesday. The FAA issued TRFs with the same restrictions for the period between 9 a.m. Wednesday and 12 a.m. Friday.

Work on subsequent prototypes continues around the clock at Boca Chica, which is also making preparations for the massive Super Heavy booster stage SpaceX plans to use to propel Starships into orbit. Musk intends for Starship/Super Heavy configuration to someday carry humans to the Moon and Mars, with the ultimate goal of making humans a multiplanetary species.