Elon Musk saved his biggest launch of 2020 for last, and it’s set to take off on Monday.
The Federal Aviation Administration on Wednesday cleared a Temporary Flight Restriction for SpaceX’s Boca Chica, Texas launch site, putting the company on track to proceed with a critical test of its newest Starship prototype this weekend.
However, the TFR was later retracted on Thursday. The Starship prototype is now expected to launch on Monday, December 7, pending final approval from the FAA.
SpaceX’s goal is to launch the SN8, its newest prototype, up to 50,000 feet in the air before coming back down and being recovered. It will be the first Starship prototype to take flight using the power of three Raptor engines firing simultaneously, which will provide more than 600 metric tons (1.3 million pound-force) of thrust.
SpaceX’s hopes for flying to the moon and eventually colonizing Mars all rest on the 150,000-pound rocket, which has been going through a number of tests to ensure its safety over the past few months. The new test will be a massive leap for the SN8; previous iterations of the rocket, the SN5 and SN6, both managed to hop up about 500 feet in September tests.
The number of test launches and around-the-clock work being done in Boca Chica has federal regulators concerned, according to documents released late last month. Between road closures, the noise from late-night construction, and the wildfires that stem from unintended explosions. The company has transitioned from testing its Falcon rockets to the much larger Starship, which has required new environmental plans and promises.