After crushing several attempts for weather concerns, technical issues, and even range breakdowns due to a nearby boat, SpaceX was able to test the static fire of its latest Starship vehicle prototype on Thursday.
At 3:02 pm local time in South Texas, the single Raptor engine attached to the Starship prototype called Serial Number 5, or SN5, screamed for life for a few seconds. In the video shared by NASASpaceflight.com, the text appeared to be nominal, which evidently provides SpaceX engineers with the confidence they need in the latest iteration of Starship.
Starship SN5 has just completed the full-length static fire. 150m hop soon.
– Elon Musk (@elonmusk) July 30, 2020
Shortly after the test, SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk confirmed that the static fire meant the company now plans to move forward with a short flight test of the vehicle. . Based on a notification from the US Federal Aviation Administration, this 150-meter flight test may take place as early as Sunday, with the launch window open. at 8 am local time (13:00 UTC).
This will be the first test of the Starship hardware flight as a stubby prototype – Starhopper – rose to 150 meters by the end of August 2019. That test, in which one Raptor engine powered the vehicle above and laterally for about 100 meters before landing, succeeded in demonstrating the traction and control of the methane-powered engine vector.
Since then, SpaceX has built several full-scale prototypes, losing them to a variety of fuel and pressure tests. With an iterative test program like the one SpaceX is using to develop Starship, the company has chosen to accept some reasonable level of risk in order to move at a fast pace.
And SpaceX has been doing so for a long time. Over the past eight months, she has built an impressive factory in South Texas and started prototyping Starship. Its engineers and technicians reduced the time to build a single Starship down from months to weeks, bringing the company closer to Musk’s ultimate goal of mass-producing large interplanetary spacecraft that they may one day allow humans to reside on Mars.
Even as SpaceX was putting SN5 through its step on the test stand, there are pieces of hardware on site for several future prototypes, including models that will use a tougher steel alloy. In the end, SpaceX is planning to unveil one of these latest prototypes for about 20km, maybe later this year.
After that point, the company is expected to focus on completing the first stage of the launch system, a rocket named “Super Heavy” that will be used to place Starship in low Earth orbit.