On May 5, SpaceX made history after it successfully landed a Starship prototype. After an eight-minute flight, the SN15 made its way back to the ground where it smoothly landed back in Boca Chica, Texas. The previous four Starship landings all ended in a spectacular ball of flames, so SpaceX was rightly lauded when the SN15 touched back down.
Shortly after the momentous occasion, SpaceX chief Elon Musk said they might re-use the SN15 to prove it was not a chance landing.
He wrote on Twitter: “Might try to refly SN15 soon.”
However, weeks have passed since the SN15’s landing and there has been no indication that the SN15 is preparing to re-launch.
Similarly, there is no launch date for the SN16 either.
So what will launch first, the SN15 or the SN16?
SpaceX, as is usual for the company, has remained tight-lipped over future Starship launches.
But eagle-eyed fans have spotted some signs about what Mr Musk’s company’s next intentions are.
On May 25, the SN15 was reinstalled on one of SpaceX’s two suborbital launch mounts.
This had many excited that the SN15 was set to launch.
However, just one day later, SpaceX removed the SN15 and took it back to the Texas Starship factory in Boca Chica.
This is likely the biggest sign that SpaceX has retired the most successful Starship prototype to date.
RGVAerialPhotography, a Twitter account which uses a plane to fly over the Starship base – known as Starbase – was the first to spot it had been removed.
The account wrote on Twitter: “Looks like Starship SN15 is headed to these display stands.”
This has ultimately left SN16 in the docking bay alone.
When the SN16 will launch, however, is currently anyone’s guess.
SpaceX has not requested any temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) over Boca Chica, nor issued any road closures around the base.
On average, SpaceX has launched a rocket every two months since the SN8 launched in December, 2020.