Prototypes of the upper stage of the SpaceX Starship have been flown nine times.[a] Designed and operated by private manufacturer SpaceX, the flown prototypes of Starship have been Starhopper, SN5, SN6, SN8, SN9, SN10, SN11, and SN15.
Starship is planned to be a fully-reusable two-stage super heavy-lift launch vehicle and unusual for previous launch vehicle and spacecraft designs, the upper stage of Starship is intended to function both as a second stage to reach orbital velocity on launches from Earth, and also eventually be used in outer space as an on-orbit long-duration spacecraft. It is being designed to take people to Mars and beyond into the Solar System.
In 2018, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also contracted to send a selection of space tourists (including Yusaku Maezawa) in a lunar flyby in 2023, as part of the dearMoon project. In 2019, SpaceX planned to launch commercial payloads using Starship no earlier than 2021. In the same year, Space.com said that SpaceX may fly Starship to the Moon in 2022.
In July 2020, SpaceX anticipated a cargo Starship mission to Mars as early as 2022, followed by a crewed Starship mission to Mars in 2024. As of 16 October 2020, the cargo flight will happen in 2024/5 and the crewed flight in 2026/7.
As of September 2021[update], Starships SN20 - SN22, Super Heavy Boosters BN4 - BN6 are currently in production or testing. All flights have been launched at the Boca Chica launch site in Texas, which SpaceX began to refer to as Starbase after March 2021.
SpaceX testing is proprietary, and the company does not release a detailed set of test objectives for their vehicle development test flights. All test flights have been launched from the SpaceX South Texas launch site at Boca Chica, South Texas.
By August 2021, the iterative development work at the South Texas facility had become focused on the first orbital test flight of the two-stage Starship system.
|Date and time
|Vehicle||Launch site[b]||Flight apogee||Duration|
|-||3 April 2019||Starhopper||Launch site, Boca Chica, Texas||<0.3 m (1 ft)||~3 seconds|
|The first firing of Starhopper and the first tethered hop (according to Musk). The burn was a few seconds in duration and the vehicle was tethered to the ground. The vehicle might have lifted off the ground, but only to the height of no more than a foot, and it was not possible to see the lift off in public video recordings of the test.|
|-||5 April 2019||Starhopper||Launch site, Boca Chica, Texas||1 m (3.3 ft)||~5 seconds|
|Tethered hop which hit tether limits. Used a single Raptor SN2 engine.|
|1||25 July 2019||Starhopper||Launch site, Boca Chica, Texas||20 m (65.6 ft)||~22 seconds|
|First free (untethered) flight test. Single Raptor engine, SN6.|
|2||27 August 2019 22:00||Starhopper||Launch site, Boca Chica, Texas||150 m (492 ft)||~1 minute|
|Single Raptor engine, SN6. Starhopper was retired after this launch, with some parts being reused for other tests.|
|3||4 August 2020 23:57||Starship SN5||Suborbital Pad A, Boca Chica, Texas||150 m (492 ft)||~45 seconds|
|Use a single Raptor engine, SN27. Second 150-meter hop.|
|4||3 September 2020 17:47||Starship SN6||Suborbital Pad A, Boca Chica, Texas||150 m (492 ft)||~45 seconds|
|Used a single Raptor engine, SN29. Third 150-meter hop.|
|5||9 December 2020 22:45||Starship SN8||Suborbital Pad A, Boca Chica, Texas||12.5 km (41,000 ft)||6 minutes, 42 seconds|
|Three Raptor engines, SN30, SN36, and SN42. The vehicle successfully launched, ascended, performed the skydive descent maneuver, relit the engines fueled by the header tanks, and steered to the landing pad. The flip maneuver from horizontal descent to vertical was successful. However, a sudden pressure loss in the methane header tank caused by the flip maneuver reduced fuel supply and thrust, resulting in a hard landing and destruction of SN8.|
|6||2 February 2021 20:25||Starship SN9||Suborbital Pad B, Boca Chica, Texas||10 km (32,800 ft)||6 minutes, 26 seconds|
|Three Raptor engines, including SN45 and SN49. However, a Raptor failed to start due to a problem with its oxygen-rich preburner, causing SN9 to over-rotate and hit the landing pad at a 40 degree angle. The vehicle was destroyed by the impact forces and explosion.|
|7||3 March 2021 23:15||Starship SN10||Suborbital Pad A, Boca Chica, Texas||10 km (32,800 ft)||6 minutes, 24 seconds[c]|
|SN10 experienced a semi-hard landing with a slight lean after the landing and a fire near the base of the rocket, and then exploded eight minutes after landing.[undue weight? ] The thrust was too low, causing some legs to break & part of the skirt to get crushed. The cause was probably due to partial helium ingestion from the fuel header tank.|
|8||30 March 2021 13:00||Starship SN11||Suborbital Pad B, Boca Chica, Texas||10 km (32,800 ft)||~6 minutes|
|SN11 launched in heavy fog, and had engine issues during ascent (according to Elon Musk). Telemetry was lost at T+5:49, shortly after the defective engine was ignited for the landing burn, at an altitude of around 600 meters. Debris were then seen falling from the sky, indicating that the vehicle had exploded just above the landing pad. Elon Musk stated that a "relatively small" methane leak caused a fire on one of the Raptor engines which damaged it, causing hard start attempting landing burn and destruction of SN11.|
|9||5 May 2021 22:24||Starship SN15||Suborbital Pad A, Boca Chica, Texas||10 km (32,800 ft)||5 minutes, 59 seconds|
|SN15 was a new iteration of prototype Starship with many upgrades over previous vehicles. SN15 launched in overcast weather and achieved a soft landing, with a small fire starting near the base shortly after landing. The post-flight fire was out within 20 minutes.|
|Built; future use uncertain. As of June 2021[update], SpaceX indicated they may yet do a hypersonic flight test with Starship SN16.|
Test flights of the Starship system—the two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle—when launched to an orbital trajectory will always consist of both a "ship", Starship, which also serves as the second stage, and also a booster, Super Heavy. On early flights the ship will be merely a second stage test article, as no cargo is planned for the early flights of the iterative test campaign.
|Date and time
|Vehicles||Launch site||Flight apogee||Duration|
|-||NET March 2022||Starship SN20/Ship 20 + SuperHeavy Booster 4||Orbital Launch Pad, Boca Chica, Texas||TBD||N/A|
|As of August 2021, Ship 20 is slated to be tested on the first orbital test flight, tentatively launching on top of Super Heavy Booster 4. The booster will separate roughly three minutes after launch and splashdown ~30 km (19 mi) offshore in the Gulf of Mexico. Ship 20 will fly over the Florida Strait, avoiding populated land, and continue to accelerate to orbital velocity. It will then re-enter the atmosphere over the Pacific and perform a soft splashdown ~100 km (62 mi) northwest of Kauai.|
SpaceX has on various occasions made a few public statements about preliminary ideas for future operational orbital flights using the Starship system. All dates for future flights are speculative, and therefore approximate and "no earlier than" (NET) dates. Moreover, it is difficult to compare the dates in the tables since they have come from different sources and at different times over the past three years.
|NET 2023||Starship Crew||dearMoon||Plan for a flyby loop around the Moon, as of 2018[update]. Known as dearMoon project.|
|NLT 2025||Starship HLS||HLS Demo||NASA demonstration mission for the Human Landing System prior to Artemis 3, announced in April 2021. Includes refueling and landing vehicles.|
|Starship Cargo (refueling)|
|NET 2025||Starship HLS||Artemis 3||Human Landing System vehicle for Artemis Program. Date is dependent on many NASA Artemis program and SpaceX Starship development contingencies.|
|Starship Cargo (refueling)|
|NET 2024||Starship Cargo||Earliest potential cargo flight to Mars, as of 2020[update].|
|NET 2026||Starship Crew
(Heart of Gold)[obsolete source]
|Earliest potential crewed flight to Mars, as of 2020[update].|
The HLS variant of Starship was selected by NASA in April 2021 to be the lander for the Artemis missions to the Moon. Artemis 3 is intended to be the first human mission to the Moon to use Starship for long-duration crewed lunar landings as part of the Artemis program.
According to space journalist Mike Wall in 2020, Musk is said to envision that eventually more than 1,000 Starships could be needed to depart for Mars every 26 months, which could lead to the development of a sustainable Martian city in 50–100 years.
, the suits would not be ready for flight until April 2025 at the earliest ... a lunar landing in late 2024 as NASA currently plans is not feasible.