SpaceX announced that it was not going to carry out the high-altitude test of its SN15 Starship prototype recently. The test had been scheduled to occur on Friday, April 30. SpaceX didn’t indicate why it canceled the test, and it’s expected to conduct the test early next week, but that is unconfirmed.
The high-altitude test is seen as one of the most significant challenges to the Starship prototype testing program. To conduct the high-altitude test requires the prototype to be fueled and launched and then traveled to a high-altitude where it will perform a “belly flop” maneuver to turn over and attempt to come back to Earth. When the spacecraft returns to Earth, the goal is to land vertically for reuse in the future.
So far, tests of the prototype rocket haven’t gone exactly as SpaceX hoped. One prototype has successfully landed vertically, only to explode a few minutes later. The last test that SpaceX conducted on a Starship prototype happened on Monday, April 26. During that test, the prototype was put through launch preparations and remained tethered to the ground as it fired its engines.
The purpose of that test was to allow SpaceX engineers to ensure the rocket was functioning as expected. Typically SpaceX CEO Elon Musk will take to Twitter and check details on testing, but he hasn’t said anything so far about what caused the delay. The last time we heard from Musk was on April 26 when he said the SN15 Prototype was ready for its static fire testing.
Roads in the area around SpaceX’s testing facility have remained closed, indicating that the high-altitude test will happen soon. If the test were delayed too long, presumably, the roads would have been reopened.