Image Source: Elon Musk
SpaceX is rapidly making progress on the construction of Starship SN1, a new prototype that will conduct a series of test flights above Boca Chica Beach in Brownsville, Texas. The founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, shared a photograph showcasing their construction progress early Thursday morning. The photo shows the craft's liquid oxygen header tank and a shiny stainless-steel nose cone, that makes up the top of the craft. He wrote via Twitter:
"Starship orbital vehicle SN1, liquid oxygen header tank & nosecone."
Starship SN1 will be powered by liquid oxygen and methane, the header tank is part of craft's internal structure. Starship SN1 will be the first prototype that will conduct high altitude test flights, including an orbital flight. Musk previously said, "We’re now building flight design of Starship SN1, but each SN will have at least minor improvements, at least through SN20 or so of Starship V1.0."
Flight is hopefully 2 to 3 months away— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 28, 2019
Meaning, this next production line could feature about 20 Starship vehicle prototypes of the same flight version design. Engineers will figure out what works best as they learn from the manufacturing and testing process, to incorporate some slight changes needed towards improving the craft. So, the first 20 Starship's in the SN version 1 series will feature changes different from one another. The Starship SN1 test flight could take place in Texas, sometime around March this year.
It appears Musk has been working alongside SpaceX engineers and mechanics in South Texas. Through testing, trial and error, they will eventually develop a flight approved spacecraft. The final version of Starship will be capable of performing long duration voyages to the Moon and Mars. SpaceX is really working hard towards turning humanity into a spacefaring civilization. At Starship's unveiling event at Boca Chica last year, Musk wholeheartedly shared his sentiment of why the company is developing Starship, he said:
"Consciousness is a rare and precious thing, we should take whatever steps we can to preserve the light of consciousness...We should do our very best to become a multi-planet species, extend consciousness beyond Earth and we should do it now."
Starship development is funded by a private customer, Yusaku Maezawa, an entrepreneur who dreams of going to the Moon. The space tour mission will be called Dear Moon it is scheduled to take place until the year 2023. Maezawa is actually on a quest to find a girlfriend to accompany him on this special moon voyage, he has opened applications to women over 20, deadline to apply is tomorrow. Read more: SpaceX will launch Yusaku Maezawa on a voyage to the Moon he is searching for a girlfriend to go with him.
SpaceX has not made public how much Maezawa paid for a trip aboard Starship. Musk has mentioned on several occasions he feels thankful Maezawa is funding Starship's development because the payment Maezawa made for the space tour was significant enough that it will "have a material effect on paying for cost and development of Starship," Musk said, "He's paying a lot of money that would help with the ship and its booster. [...] He's ultimately paying for the average citizen to travel to other planets."
We will sure see the pace of work continue to pick up at SpaceX Boca Chica in the coming months before Starship's SN1 debut test flight takes place. In September last year, Musk said people could ride to space on Starship before the end of 2020, "I think we could potentially see people flying next year. It’s designed to be a reusable rocket, so we can do many flights to prove out the reliability very quickly. With an expendable vehicle, if you want to do 10 flights, let’s say, to prove out the viability of an expendable vehicle, you need to build and 'destroy 10 vehicles, whereas we can do 10 flights within basically 10 days," he said.
SpaceX officials stated their "aspirational goal" is to make Starship ready for a flight to Mars without humans by the year 2022. Then after engineers verify Starship is reliable to launch humans, Maezawa would fly on the Dear Moon mission by 2023.