Digital Illustration Created By: Erc X @ErcXspace via Twitter.
SpaceX was founded by Elon Musk to make life multiplanetary. “You want to wake up in the morning and think the future is going to be great and that's what being a spacefaring civilization is all about. It's about believing in the future and thinking that the future will be better than the past. And I can't think of anything more exciting than going out there and being among the stars,” he says. The aerospace company has developed some of the world’s most advanced rockets and is actively working to develop its next-generation launch vehicle that will enable humans to colonize Mars.
SpaceX is developing a two-stage, stainless-steel Starship spacecraft that will propel to orbit with a giant Super Heavy rocket. Starship will be capable of transporting 100 passengers on long-duration voyages to the Red Planet. “If there's something terrible that happens on Earth, either made by humans or natural, we want to have, like, life insurance for life as a whole,” Musk said during the Humans To Mars conference on August 31. “Then, there's the kind of excitement and adventure.”
Starship is under development at Boca Chica, a small South Texas beach village in the city of Brownsville, located along the border of Mexico, near South Padre Island, TX. Musk calls Boca Chica Beach the “Gateway to Mars.” He envisions transforming the piece of sandy land into a ‘21st Century Spaceport’ and ‘SpaceX Resort’ where employees will enjoy living while they work towards creating a spacefaring future for humanity.
Today, August 12, Musk shared SpaceX teams are already working on the next Starship prototype, referred to as SN8, that will conduct the first high-altitude test flight at Boca Chica’s launchpad. – “SN8 Starship with flaps and nosecone should be done in about a week. Then static fire, checkouts, static fire, fly to 60,000 ft. and back,” he announced via Twitter. A flight at 60,000 feet (ft) is equivalent to around 20 kilometers (km) above the ground. Musk aims to make flying stainless-steel spacecraft routine in South Texas and appreciates the support SpaceX receives from the local community. – “One way or another, excitement guaranteed! Support of greater Boca, Padre, Brownsville community is very much appreciated,” Musk added.
One way or another, excitement guaranteed! Support of greater Boca, Padre, Brownsville community is very much appreciated.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 12, 2020
Starship SN8 would be the first stainless-steel prototype that actually looks like the spacecraft's final design -featuring a top nose cone section and aerodynamic fins. A pair of Starship prototypes conducted low-altitude test flights this year. These just looked like cylinder structures with a square-shape mass simulator atop; Each soared into the sky 150 meters and landed powered by a single methane-fueled Raptor engine. Starship SN8 is expected to be the first test vehicle to feature three powerful Raptors. The final version of Starship will feature six, three designed for atmospheric flight and three vacuum-optimized Raptors for propulsion in space. SN8’s test flight will showcase how three Raptors perform together, and how the aerodynamic fins work in-flight. SpaceX will attempt to conduct a ‘belly dive’ flight maneuver that will offer engineers insight towards the development of the spacecraft (a digital depiction of the type of flight SN8 will attempt is shown in the video below). During each test, they can assess the engines’ performance, as well as everything involving the structure's design through the launch and land process.
Musk’s timeline announcement suggests Starship SN8 could be ready to take flight in just a couple of weeks. According to a recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filing by SpaceX, the company seeks to conduct a test flight sometime after October 11. If SN8 passes pre-flight preparations, we will see the first full-scale spacecraft conduct a high-altitude test flight soon!
Animation of Starship SN8 test flight