SpaceX fans had been eagerly awaiting the launch of the SN16 after the successful lift-off of its predecessor, the SN15. However, there has not been an announcement regarding the SN16 since the launch of the SN15 in early May.
The latest Starship prototype had been in the launch bay since May, but SpaceX now seemingly has other plans.
An image from NASA Spaceflight’s Jack Beyer shows both the SN15 and SN16 sitting in the retirement garden near the Boca Chica launch site in Texas.
Mr Beyer wrote on Twitter: “Starship SN15 and Starship SN16. Coolest lawn ornaments ever.”
SpaceX chief Elon Musk picked up on the tweet, retweeting it without comment to his 57 million followers.
Instead, it now seems as if SpaceX will be focussing on the orbital flight of a Starship prototype.
The planned orbital flight was recently detailed in a filing to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC).
The document shows that SpaceX plans to launch the 160-foot tall Starship on a Super Heavy rocket booster from Texas.
The booster will then separate to return after two minutes and 49 seconds “and land in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 20 miles from the shore”, the document says.
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The document said: “SpaceX intends to collect as much data as possible during flight to quantify entry dynamics and better understand what the vehicle experiences in a flight regime that is extremely difficult to accurately predict or replicate computationally.
“This data will anchor any changes in vehicle design or CONOPs [concept of operations] after the first flight and build better models for us to use in our internal simulations.”
A date has not been decided for the launch, but Mr Musk has previously said he hopes to make it happen before the end of the year.
Indeed, the document confirms this as the company expects it to happen any time between June 20 and December 20.