Elon Musk says SpaceX’s new Starship rocket has 33% chance of success

  • SpaceX is planning to fly a Starship rocket prototype to its highest altitude yet this weekend, according to road closures and a Notice to Airmen issued for the aerospace company’s launch site in southern Texas. 
  • The spacecraft should fly 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the air. Previous prototypes have only made short hops of about 150 meters (492 feet).
  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said there was a lot that could go wrong, and gave the rocket a one-in-three chance of landing in one piece.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

This weekend, Elon Musk’s space-exploration company, SpaceX, is poised to take a big step forward in its quest to further revolutionize space travel.

Musk tweeted on Sunday that a prototype of SpaceX’s enormous Starship spacecraft — a fully reusable vehicle the company wants to use to send humans to the moon and Mars — will soon undergo its first high-altitude test.

The flight attempt to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles), follows a successful November 24 rocket-engine test firing of the Starship prototype, called SN8 or serial no. 8. The test also comes after a successful “hop” flight in August to roughly 150 meters (492 feet) using a previous prototype called SN5.

On Wednesday the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for a rocket launch from the Boca Chica Village in southern Texas, where SpaceX is developing Starship, from Friday at 8 a.m. CT through Sunday at 5 p.m. CT.

However, both a NOTAM and road closures are required for launch. The Cameron County judge has issued Boca Chica road-closure notices for every weekday through December 9, but the only overlap with the NOTAM is Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

Musk: ‘Maybe 1/3 chance’ of a successful flight and landing

SpaceX Starship.JPG

A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas (September 28, 2019).

REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare


This test flight will be a big step in testing whether the design can withstand the rigors of flights to higher altitudes.

Musk said in a follow-up tweet on Wednesday that a “lot of things need to go right” for SN8 to land intact, adding that he thinks there’s “maybe 1/3 chance” that it does.

However, should SN8 fail, SpaceX’s Starship factory is cranking out more prototypes, and SN9 could soon be ready to take its place for future testing.

Read more: SpaceX may spend billions to outsource Starlink satellite-dish production, an industry insider says — and could lose $2,000 on each one it sells

SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft is made up of two sections, the Super Heavy booster and the Starship rocket ship, which Musk claims will be able to carry 100 people to Mars at a time. The entire spacecraft stands at 120 metres (394 feet) tall. 

In October, Musk said SpaceX has a “fighting chance” of sending an uncrewed Starship rocket to Mars in 2024, two years later than previously hoped. 

Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX’s president and chief operating officer said October 23 the Starship

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SpaceX’s next Starship rocket may soar to 15 kilometers this weekend, but Elon Musk says there’s a 2-in-3 chance the flight may fail



a man standing in front of a tall building: SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is building and launching Starship prototypes in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX; Mark Brake/Getty Images; Business Insider


© Provided by Business Insider
SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is building and launching Starship prototypes in Boca Chica, Texas. SpaceX; Mark Brake/Getty Images; Business Insider

  • SpaceX is planning to fly a Starship rocket prototype to its highest altitude yet this weekend, according to road closures and a Notice to Airmen issued for the aerospace company’s launch site in southern Texas. 
  • The spacecraft should fly 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) into the air. Previous prototypes have only made short hops of about 150 meters (492 feet).
  • SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said there was a lot that could go wrong, and gave the rocket a one-in-three chance of landing in one piece.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

This weekend, Elon Musk’s space-exploration company, SpaceX, is poised to take a big step forward in its quest to further revolutionize space travel.

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Musk tweeted on Sunday that a prototype of SpaceX’s enormous Starship spacecraft — a fully reusable vehicle the company wants to use to send humans to the moon and Mars — will soon undergo its first high-altitude test.

The flight attempt to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles), follows a successful November 24 rocket-engine test firing of the Starship prototype, called SN8 or serial no. 8. The test also comes after a successful “hop” flight in August to roughly 150 meters (492 feet) using a previous prototype called SN5.

On Wednesday the Federal Aviation Administration issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) for a rocket launch from the Boca Chica Village in southern Texas, where SpaceX is developing Starship, from Friday at 8 a.m. CT through Sunday at 5 p.m. CT.

However, both a NOTAM and road closures are required for launch. The Cameron County judge has issued Boca Chica road-closure notices for every weekday through December 9, but the only overlap with the NOTAM is Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT.

Musk: ‘Maybe 1/3 chance’ of a successful flight and landing



a flock of birds flying over a building: A prototype of SpaceX's Starship spacecraft at the company's facility in Boca Chica, Texas (September 28, 2019). REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare


© REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
A prototype of SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas (September 28, 2019). REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

This test flight will be a big step in testing whether the design can withstand the rigors of flights to higher altitudes.

Musk said in a follow-up tweet on Wednesday that a “lot of things need to go right” for SN8 to land intact, adding that he thinks there’s “maybe 1/3 chance” that it does.

However, should SN8 fail, SpaceX’s Starship factory is cranking out more prototypes, and SN9 could soon be ready to take its place for future testing.

Read more: SpaceX may spend billions to outsource Starlink satellite-dish production, an industry insider says — and could lose $2,000 on each one it sells

SpaceX’s Starship spacecraft is made up of two sections, the Super Heavy booster and the Starship rocket ship, which Musk claims will be able to carry 100 people to Mars at a time. The entire spacecraft stands at 120 metres (394 feet) tall. 

In October, Musk said SpaceX has a

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Watch the Best Bits From SpaceX’s Sentinel-6 Satellite Launch

SpaceX nailed another rocket launch and landing on Saturday, November 21, this time sending the Sentinel-6 ocean-monitoring satellite into orbit.

SpaceX mission launches are always a sight to behold, with space fans truly spoiled with amazing footage showing the key stages in real-time and in astonishing detail, including the rocket blasting off from the launchpad, the landing of the first-stage booster back on terra firma, and the actual deployment of the satellite in space. Sometimes we get to see ships out in the ocean catching the two halves of the rocket fairing in giant nets, too.

Saturday’s mission went exactly according to plan, with SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket departing Space Launch Complex 4E at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:17 a.m. PT.

Liftoff! pic.twitter.com/wnkvwe09Lb

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 21, 2020

NASA posted this footage of the booster separation followed soon after by the fairing separation that revealed the satellite shortly before its deployment.

Booster separation, second-engine start, and fairing separation as the U.S.-European Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich ocean-observing satellite is on its way to orbit.#SeeingTheSeas pic.twitter.com/EE1TIxIvp6

— NASA (@NASA) November 21, 2020

A little while later, the first-stage booster arrived back on Earth, with this footage capturing the final stages of the journey back, including the touchdown.

Falcon 9’s first stage has landed on Landing Zone 4 pic.twitter.com/eDrI5HSXaJ

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 21, 2020

Here are a couple more clips showing the launch and landing.

La même, faite par SpaceX. pic.twitter.com/q9XrCpCSsD

— CapCom (@Capcominfo) November 22, 2020

Cameras on board the SpaceX spacecraft also captured the deployment of the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite, named in honor of the former chief of NASA’s Earth Science Division who passed away in August.

Deployment of Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich confirmed pic.twitter.com/1ZsiSOyeaj

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 21, 2020

The mission was a joint effort between the European Space Agency and NASA. The satellite is designed to collect data such as sea levels, and atmospheric temperature and humidity, and offers greater accuracy than ever before. An additional satellite designed to complement the work of the Sentinel-6, called Sentinel-6b, will head to orbit in five years’ time.

This year has been a particularly busy one for rocket launches, with a growing number of companies sending their machinery skyward, some of it toward Mars. Check out this compilation, complete with launch footage, of the most notable space missions that have taken place in recent months.

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SpaceX’s Saturday launch of Sentinel-6 is a first step toward leveling up climate studies

Saturday’s SpaceX launch may be a small step for a company that is making increasingly regular trips into orbit, but the latest mission’s payload represents a giant step for climate studies here on Earth.



a plane flying in the sky: SpaceX's Saturday launch of Sentinel-6 is a first step toward leveling up climate studies


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SpaceX’s Saturday launch of Sentinel-6 is a first step toward leveling up climate studies

The launch itself was a success by all measures. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from a launchpad at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Saturday morning, shortly after 9:00 a.m. PT. The weather was beautiful and the launch happened right on schedule, as you can see in the video below.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 separated a few minutes after launch. This particular SpaceX rocket is partially reusable, and so the first stage returned to the ground unharmed, with a controlled descent and a pitch-perfect landing that drew cheers from observers.

But again, it’s the payload that matters. This Falcon 9 carried NASA’s Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich satellite into orbit. It’s the first step in a two-phase mission that will provide researchers with more real-time data on a planet that’s undergoing a process of significant climate change.

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The real Dr. Michael Freilich for whom the satellite is named was a former director of NASA’s Earth Science Division. According to the space agency’s fact sheet, it was Freilich who pioneered the idea of researching oceanography from space. 

This initial launch will get the mission of studying Earth’s changing climate underway, though an identical second Sentinel-6 satellite is set to launch in 2025. Those two satellites together with eventually form a power duo, but the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich will be hard at work even during the five years it spends flying solo.

According to NASA, the Sentinel-6 satellites will offer better coastal monitoring than we’ve had before, with more precise insights into changing sea levels. That research will also be packed with more data, giving researchers an even better understanding of the forces propelling these changes.

The Sentinel-6 will also rely on the existing network of orbiting satellites, reading their radio signals as they pass through Earth’s atmosphere. This will enable the measuring of “minute changes in atmospheric density, temperature, and moisture content.”

The net result of all this research should lead to improvements in our Earthly weather forecasts, including improved tracking as hurricanes form and moving across the planet. Given 2020’s dangerously record-breaking hurricane season, that’s encouraging news for our increasingly storm-ravaged planet.

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SpaceX’s Elon Musk Suggests Alien Life May Be Hiding In These 2 Spots

KEY POINTS

  • Elon Musk responded to a young fan who sent a letter asking if he believes there is life on other planets
  • The SpaceX founder suggested Mars or Europa may harbor extraterrestrial life
  • NASA is aiming to send its Europa Clipper spacecraft to the Jupiter moon by 2023

Is there life on other planets? Elon Musk suggested that it may be possible to find extraterrestrial life if space missions look in certain places.

On Thursday, the SpaceX and Tesla founder shared the two most likely spots where humans may be able to find extraterrestrial life in response to a letter sent to him by a 13-year old boy, who asked if Musk believes there is life on other planets. The two places he mentioned? Earth’s neighbor, Mars, and Jupiter’s moon, Europa.

“Doesn’t seem to be any life in this solar system. Maybe under the ice of Europa or extremophile bacteria below the surface of Mars,” he tweeted

Musk added a link that leads to the Wikipedia page of the Drake equation — a probabilistic equation that is used by scientists to estimate the possible number of communicating extraterrestrial civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy.

This is not the first time Musk has been asked about alien life. 

“As far as we know, we’re the only consciousness or the only life that’s out there,” Musk said last year during the unveiling of Starship Mk1, a prototype for SpaceX’s massive reusable launch system, Space.com reported. “There might be other life, but we’ve seen no signs of it.”

“People often ask me,” he shared. “‘What do you know about the aliens?’ and I’m like, ‘Man, I tell you, pretty sure I’d know if there were aliens. I’ve not seen any sign of aliens.'”

Meanwhile, NASA announced last year that it is sending the Europa Clipper spacecraft to Jupiter’s mysterious and icy moon, targeting a launch date between 2023 and 2025. The mission aims to study the conditions of Europa’s environment and determine whether it is suitable for supporting life.

Jupiter’s sixth-largest moon is said to have a surface temperature roughly 238 degrees below zero and is believed to have oceans underneath its icy surface, according to NASA. 

Mars, on the other hand, has displayed shreds of evidence of conditions that could have supported life. Due to dry riverbeds, ancient shorelines, and salty surface chemistry discovered by orbiters and rovers at Mars, it is believed that the red planet once had liquid water and even lakes. Scientists also found evidence of organic compounds, or the chemical building blocks of life, on Mars using data from NASA’s Curiosity Rover.

In July, NASA sent off the Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover to the red planet with the goal of finding signs of past microbial life.

Both places mentioned, Mars and Europa, are still largely unexplored. However, the space missions to these locations may soon unlock more of their secrets and determine whether or not extraterrestrial life had once lurked, or are lurking, on Mars and

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Elon Musk says SpaceX’s 1st Starship trip to Mars could fly in 4 years

SpaceX is almost ready to start building a permanent human settlement on Mars with its massive Starship rocket.

The private spaceflight company is on track to launch its first uncrewed mission to Mars in as little as four years from now, SpaceX’s founder and CEO Elon Musk said Friday (Oct. 16) at the International Mars Society Convention. 

“I think we have a fighting chance of making that second Mars transfer window,” Musk said in a discussion with Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin. You can watch a replay of the talk here.

That window Musk referred to is a launch opportunity that arises every 26 months for mission to Mars. NASA, China and the United Arab Emirates all launched missions to mars in July of this year. The next window opens in 2022 with Musk referring to the 2024 Mars launch opportunity. 

The mission will launch to the Red Planet on a SpaceX Starship vehicle, a reusable rocket-and-spacecraft combo that is currently under development at the company’s South Texas facility. SpaceX is also planning to use Starship for missions to the moon starting in 2022, as well as point-to-point trips around the Earth.

Related: Starship and Super Heavy: SpaceX’s Mars-colonizing vehicles in images

Musk has long said that humans need to establish a permanent and self-sustaining presence on Mars to ensure “the continuance of consciousness as we know it” — just in case planet Earth is left uninhabitable by a something like a nuclear war or an asteroid strike. 

But SpaceX doesn’t have any plans to actually build a Mars base. As a transportation company, its only goal is to ferry cargo (and humans) to and from the Red Planet, facilitating the development of someone else’s Mars base.

“SpaceX is taking on the biggest single challenge, which is the transportation system. There’s all sorts of other systems that are going to be needed,” Mars Society founder Robert Zubrin said during the convention. 

“My personal hope is that we’re gonna see Starship in the stratosphere before this year’s out, and if Elon is right, reach orbit next year or the year after,” Zubrin added. “This will change people’s minds as to what is possible. And then, you know, we’ll have NASA seeking to fund the remaining pieces of the puzzle or entrepreneurs stepping forward to develop remaining pieces of the puzzle.”

This SpaceX infographic shows how the company aims to use its Starship interstellar spacecraft to transport humans and cargo to and from the Red Planet.  (Image credit: SpaceX)

If Musk’s projections are correct — he is known for offering overly ambitious timelines — SpaceX’s first Mars mission would launch in the same year that NASA astronauts return to the moon under the Artemis program. SpaceX is also planning to fly space tourists on a Starship mission around the moon in 2023. NASA has also picked SpaceX as one of three commercial teams to develop moon landers for the Artemis program.

Musk said Friday that if it weren’t for the orbital mechanics

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